Sudbury restaurants prepare for a possible patio season
SUDBURY -- Although still waiting for the green light from the Ontario government, local restaurants are preparing to reopen their patios -- and finally allow customers to return.
Premier Doug Ford is expected to make a decision within a week on whether patios will be allowed to reopen using a regional approach.
It's something David Russell, part-owner of Twiggs Coffee Roasters, says will benefit restaurant owners in the north.
"It's what's happening around the world and in other provinces -- it's the next step," said Russell. "And certainly the regional approach is going to help us out.
"I feel as if northern Ontario, we are comfortably removed from the situation, we're lucky. So we can afford, I think, the space to open up in this matter."
Even if patios are allowed to open this season, physical distancing measures and other safety protocols will have to be put in place. Some restaurant are already prepared.
"All of our tables are distanced six feet apart," said David Gagnon, co-owner of M.I.C. "We're going to have our servers handling the food properly and wearing masks when serving customers.
"Just the normal sanitization in the restaurant, we kicked it up a notch before COVID and now after COVID, it's going to be something we're going to be doing to the extreme."
Even with additional measures in place, restaurant owners in Sudbury said their staff is ready to take on the next challenge.
"We are all learning what social distancing is and lineups and patience and spacing," said Russell. "So, you know, we already practise cleanliness and handwashing protocols, that sort of thing. This is just the added social distancing."
Russell said being outside helps ensure adequate spacing can happen.
"People can space out on the patio and it's time - lets open up!"
Restaurants closed dine-in services in March to due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many stayed open, offering takeout and delivery options. But many are ready to get back to some version of normal.
Even though those with a patio are excited, there is some concern about the many restaurants that don't have patios.
"I think I can speak for all the restaurants in town, we're all waiting for the green light to reopen," said Gagnon. "It's one thing for the patios to reopen, but I feel bad for the restaurants that don't have patios. They've been struggling just like us.
"I hope after the patio gets open that the government will open up dining rooms shortly after."
"We're fortunate here at Twiggs where we have a large space, we have a large patio," said Russell. "There are a lot of small businesses that don't have that luxury and if you could open up a sidewalk space, or even a car park space, then it would help those businesses, as well."
Greater Sudbury sent out a media release May 27 that said the city would "waive fees for patio and sidewalk cafes, once these amenities are permitted under the provincial restart plan."
As restaurants wait for a decision, they are putting the final touches in place to welcome their customers back.
"It's going to have its challenges and I hope that the community is patient with all the restaurant owners because definitely these are uncharted waters," said Gagnon.
"It's going to be interesting, but I think the community it going to support us and we'll get through this together."