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COVID-19: Calgary diners pleased about eating with others again as restrictions eased

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Alberta restaurants have been reopened to in-person dining for nearly a week. Carolyn Kury de Castillo has more on how customers and staff are reacting – Feb 13, 2021

The breakfast crowd is back for the first time since mid-December at Monki Breakfastclub and Bistro in Calgary, and diners couldn’t be happier.

The popular dining spot was busy on Saturday morning, marking the first day customers could sit down and enjoy eggs Benedict again since restaurants were forced to shut down two months ago.

“It feels so nice just to be able to get out and socialize and interact again and just get out of the house,” said Brittney Giacchetta, who was having breakfast there on Saturday.

On Feb. 8, Alberta restaurants were allowed to reopen for in-person dining. The rules allow up to six people to be seated at one table; all need to be from the same household. Those who live alone may dine with two other close contacts.

Read more: COVID-19: Kids back at practice as in-person dining and gyms open in Alberta on Monday

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Plexiglass shields were installed for an extra layer of virus protection.

“We had to get rid of four tables so that’s pretty much the biggest difference but we’re making do,” said manager Francis Catolos.

He said Monki has a normal capacity of 36 but it is down to 18 now.

“Luckily, I have been around for the entire time. But for myself personally, the fact that I don’t have to talk to myself anymore is pretty cool,” laughed Catolos. “I can talk with customers again and my staff again. It’s always the favourite thing about Monki; we are kind of like a family here.”

Staff members have had to adapt to the tight squeeze but it’s been worth it, considering the squeeze they’ve felt on their budgets by being out of work.

“Two months without real work. I worked retail for a little bit but it’s not quite the same so it definitely helps. I have student loans so it’s good to see money in the bank again,” said server Dani Marshall.

Read more: Video of Earls guests breaking Alberta COVID-19 rules condemned by restaurant and Hinshaw

Customers like Giacchetta say they are not concerned about dining with others again as the pandemic continues.

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“I’m well aware of all the protocols at this point, and I trust the restaurants are doing everything they can to keep themselves safe,” Giacchetta said.

The new element this time around is the contact tracing requirement. Some restaurants have made that simple: a customer just scans a QR code with their phone to provide their name and phone number.

“It takes 20 seconds to give your name and phone number, and then you’re good to go,” Giacchetta said.

Read more: Pandemic hits Alberta’s hospitality industry harder than any other sector: CFIB

The Alberta Hospitality Association will be talking with government officials in the next week or so about easing more restrictions in March, like how many people can dine together or staying open past 11 p.m.

“It hasn’t been much of a factor right now with the cold but when spring comes around, especially with our very social 17 Avenue here, we would like to see that curfew get pushed back a bit,” said AHA president Ernie Tsu, who also owns Trolley 5 Brewpub on 17 Avenue S.W.

Tsu said despite the bitterly cold weather this past week, people still went out to support local restaurants.

“I have been hearing that it’s been a pretty good start even though it’s been so cold. It’s just good for everybody to see their staff coming back,” Tsu said.

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But for the people who work in restaurants, it’s about more than just collecting a paycheque again.

“Just the vibe, the feeling of people around you and talking. Being out. I would say the socializing is the best part about it,” Marshall said.

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