Restaurants and licensed establishments in the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) have been closed for over a month.
As COVID-19 cases rose during the second wave, the province ordered all restaurants and bars in the Halifax region to stop in-person dining.
At the time the restriction was only expected to last a couple of weeks but ultimately ended up being extended until Jan. 11. Then, on New Year’s Eve, the province announced that restaurants could reopen for dine-in as early as Jan. 4, which left many scrambling.
“Finding out right before a holiday isn’t ideal, because we can’t place orders or anything,” said Lacey Doherty, who owns The Middle Spoon on Barrington.
“But I have a great staff, and they really want to open as well, so we’ll do what it takes to be open for Monday.”
For Doherty, it might cost a bit extra trying to get all the proper supplies in time, but she says they’ve been shut down too long and everyone’s anxious to get back to work.
“I’ll do whatever it takes to get ready.”
Across the harbour in Dartmouth, George Christakos, the owner of Battery Park, is taking a different approach and is delaying their reopening to Wednesday.
“Taking a couple extra days to make sure the kitchen is fully stocked, everything in the draft system is working properly, tasting fresh, and that the place you know is clean and tidy, that makes me feel a lot better about bringing our customers back in,” he said.
While Christakos admits that they could have used more advanced notice to reopen, they’re not complaining.
They weren’t expecting to be allowed to reopen until Jan. 11 so they’re excited about getting in an extra weekend of business.
“We’ve all be twiddling our thumbs so we’re happy to get back to serving and hosting which is what we want to do.”
Shut down has had big impact on business
The Garden Food Bar and Lounge was among the first restaurants to close during the second wave.
As they saw cases spike in November, particularly around the downtown core they chose to shut down before the province mandated it, but the prolonged closure wasn’t easy.
“This time was a little more devastating than the last time,” said owner Kourosh Rad.
This is the first year of business of his restaurant so they were banking on sales from the holiday season.
“We had Christmas dinners and New Year’s all safely planned so for it to get shut down right before the holiday was devastating.”
Shuttered businesses in HRM frustrated by lack of communication
Still, Rad is keeping optimistic. He says there’s still lots to do before they reopen Tuesday but he’s excited to welcome people back into his establishment.
“There’s a lot of work that goes into it, the scheduling, the ordering,” he said.
“All of it’s more than a weekend’s worth of work, but we are working double trying to get it all ready.”
When restaurants do open though, the rules will be different.
All establishments must stop serving at 10 p.m. and close by 11 p.m. For an industry that revolves around socializing it’s not ideal, but it will hit some more than others.
“It’s going to impact us in a huge way,” said Doherty.
“We’re more of a place that people come to a little bit later in the night.”
To help make up for that Doherty says they plan to continue with their delivery service which will allow them to keep selling cocktails a bit later into the night.
To help make things smoother for everyone, restaurant owners have some advice for their patrons as well — they encourage everyone to keep buying local, but if you’re feeling sick stay home, and consider take-out instead.
They also encourage people to eat out earlier, something they noticed when they reopened after the first shutdown was that many people were coming out around the same time, but with limited capacity they aren’t able to serve as many people during those hours as they normally would.
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