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Coronavirus: Halifax restaurants shake off the dine-in service rust after five-week lockdown

Click to play video 'Dine-in service in HRM and Hants reopens after second lockdown' Dine-in service in HRM and Hants reopens after second lockdown
WATCH: After a five-week COVID-19 lockdown, restaurants across the Halifax Regional Municipality and Hants County can reopen for dine-in service. Alexa MacLean reports. – Jan 4, 2021

While many people were likely enjoying the tail end of their holiday downtime this past weekend, many restaurant owners were feverishly working in order to be ready for dine-in service to resume on Jan. 4.

“No indication. I was expecting it to be next week,” Dan Flinn said, the owner and operator of the Train Station Bike and Bean Cafe in Upper Tantallon.

Like many small business owners, Flinn spent most of 2020 trying to find ways to avoid having to permanently close.

“You’re restructuring all the time, cutting back on hours. At the end of the day, you just want to open up, and stay open, and be here,” he said.

Read more: ‘So reckless’: Vancouver restaurant blasted for 100-person NYE party flouting COVID rules

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He and others across the Halifax Regional Municipality and Hants County were expecting dine-in service to reopen on Jan. 10.

However, on Jan. 2, a provincial government press release stated that dine-in services could resume on Jan. 4 if they adhered to public health protocols.

Luckily, by this stage, many owners and their staff are well-versed in what those protocols are.

“Reorganizing. Up in the bike shop, I’ve put a lot of stuff away and made sure that there’s a few tables that are COVID spaced out and just got ourselves ready to go,” he said.

Between plexiglass sheets separating tables and regular sanitization, Bike and Bean fan favourite, Peter Delefes, couldn’t wait to crack open his morning paper at his neighbourhood cafe.

“It’s nice to have it open again and to see people. One of my pals was here this morning so we chatted. We had the plexiglass between us, it’s an extra precaution. Being an old-timer as well, you know, we have to take whatever precautions we can,” Delefes said.

Peter Delefes sits behind a sheet of plexiglass while he enjoys his morning coffee at the Train Station Bike and Bean Cafe in Upper Tantallon. Alexa MacLean/Global Halifax

The investments and adaptations restaurants and licensed establishments have made haven’t gone unnoticed by some customers.

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Read more: Halifax, Dartmouth restaurant owners prepared for winter, COVID-19 second wave

“There’s some restaurants that really have gone out of their way to put plexiglass and they’ve spent a lot of money for ensuring that people are away from the germs. So, I think I would plunge into one of those that have put those things in place, they’ve spent all that money to do that for us,” Miriam Rostek said, a supporter of dine-in service.

In Halifax’s north end, Jenny’s Place has been a popular watering hole and pub for the local community since the mid-1980s.

The reopening announcement was welcomed with open arms by Jenny’s manager, Zavin Roher.

He said just a few short hours after they opened their doors, familiar faces started trickling in.

“It means a lot, yes. I’m used to seeing these people regularly and we haven’t been able to see them, obviously, because of the closure and it’s great to be back,” he said.

The provincial government states all restaurants and licensed establishments can offer dine-in service until 10 p.m. and must close by 11 p.m.

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