“I feel that it’s a big letdown for us, for sure,” Justin Linder, owner of the Rotisserie in Regina, told Global Regina Thursday afternoon.
“We already have all the precautions in place to keep people safe. Now we’re going to be lucky to put 30 to 40 people in there at a time.
“I mean, this is a big blow for us.”
As part of a suite of new COVID-19 prevention measures effective Nov. 27, the province announced a new limit of four people per table in restaurants and licensed establishments.
Tables must also be spaced two metres apart if barriers are placed in between. Three metre distancing must be maintained between tables if no barriers are present.
Read more: 3 COVID-19 deaths reported in Saskatchewan
Linder, meanwhile, was already running his restaurant at 50-per cent capacity. He estimates the new restrictions will wean dine-in capacity down a further 25 per cent of normal levels.
He said that the reduced room for dine-in means he’ll have to rely even more on takeout orders, a service not usually relied upon by a business that is built to run as a buffet.
Linder added that he thinks an unintended effect of restrictions specifically targeting restaurants is that they give consumers a reason to hesitate.
“October was a good month for us. We were finally climbing back to a level where we could get through. Then November hit and it’s like somebody hit the off-switch again,” he said.
“A lot of these businesses, I think you already pulled the plug on them just by putting that fear into people.”
While Saskatchewan’s premier has recently rejected calls for a temporary “circuit breaker” lockdown, Linder said that temporarily closing dine-in service altogether might not be that much worse than struggling to operate under the new regulations.
“If that’s what it takes to get through this in a timely fashion we would deal with it accordingly, but for them to just take small jabs at us when we’re already struggling — it hurts, for sure.”
Read more: COVID-19 outbreaks in Saskatchewan
Theatres across the province are also subject to new restrictions. Starting Friday, just 30 people at a time will be allowed inside.
Arenas, bingo halls and other performing arts venues will also be limited to 30 occupants.
The head of Saskatoon’s Broadway Theatre also suggested short-term pain might be necessary for long term gain.
He put a 30-person cap in place two weeks ago.
“I’m not sure what is taking so long to get to a spot where the people who are supposed to be leading take things seriously,” said Executive and Artist Director Kirby Wirchenko.
The new measures, which will be reviewed on Dec. 17 by Saskatchewan Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab, were developed in consultation with industry stakeholders.
The Saskatchewan Hotel and Hospitality Association (SKHHA) was among them.
Echoing opinions expressed by fitness industry stakeholders, the organization expressed relief that full lockdown measures weren’t implemented.
“That would have been devastating for us,” said SKHHA President & CEO Jim Bence. “So we’re very appreciative of the government’s decision to take a really measured and delivered approach.”
Bence added that the SKHHA is happy with the new regulations despite that they “will make things a little more difficult” for the hospitality industry.
He added that he thinks restaurant operators will appreciate the room to operate ahead of the holiday season, which he says is their busiest time of year.
“Consumers were already staying at home more than they were in the past. We’ve seen decreases in seating and business levels in the weeks before this. So even though it’s somewhat restricted, it’s better than being closed for sure,” Bence said.
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