As Saskatoon restaurants get ready to reopen in Phase 3 on June 8, there are concerns that 50-per cent capacity is not enough to pay the bills amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some restaurants are pushing to put more patrons outside their businesses — but it’s not as simple as it sounds.
The idea some business owners are pitching is opening up parking stalls in front of restaurants for patio dining space.
Restaurants already do this, but they have to pay the city. One owner tells Global News it usually costs him around $2,500 from May 1 to Sep. 1.
Some restaurants say they would like the city to make them free this year.
“We just want to make sure we can keep our customers spread properly,” said Jimmy Oneschuk, owner of Museo Coffee.
“Our space is only 11 feet wide inside the cafe. Once we get two or three tables we’ll be at our half capacity.”
Some establishments say only allowing a portion of their usual amount of customers means they’re going to struggle for years.
“Restaurants in this city will be two or three or four years before they even have a chance to turn a profit again,” said Brian Storey, owner of Drift café.
“If you, say, rent 4,000 square feet from a business and then you operate in only 2,000 square feet of it, there isn’t much chance you’re going to be able to turn a profit. Not in the restaurant business.”
City council makes that call to waive or not waive these fees.
“A future report planned for June will include some information regarding this matter for council’s consideration,” wrote the city in an email to Global News.
Other cities like Kelowna, B.C., have already done this. Restaurants say they want the city to act quickly before summer ends.
With outdoor seating, some restaurants hope it could mean they could serve more than half their capacity since they would be outside, but that’s not the case according to the province’s ministry of trade and export development.
Seating outside counts as part of the restaurant’s total capacity — so for example, if half their capacity is 10 people, they could serve 10 in total at a time, regardless of where they sit.
“Seating must be limited to 50 per cent of maximum capacity and set up in a way to maintain two metres of physical distancing between dining parties, regardless if seating is indoors or outdoors,” wrote the ministry in an email.
The ministry said it’s working with municipalities on “options available” for expanded seating outdoors.
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus.
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