After more than two months of having to stay closed due to COVID-19, bars, restaurants and salons in Nova Scotia and P.E.I. will be able to reopen next week.
Even so, there’s a lot of uncertainty about the future.
"Basically, we're just going to try to offer the best food, the best value and the best service we can and hope for the best. I wish I could tell you what's going to happen down the road but no one really can," said Jeff Sinnott, co-owner with Chad MacDonald of the Red Island Hospitality Group Inc. in Charlottetown.
The P.E.I. company's five bars -- Hunter's Ale House, the Factory Downtown, John Brown Richmond Street Grille, Hunter's at the Fox at Fox Meadow Golf Course in Stratford and the Charlottetown Beer Garden and Seafood Patio -- will be able to reopen for dining and patio service on Monday as part of Phase 3 of the province's Renew P.E.I. Together plan.
In addition to bars and restaurants, other businesses allowed to reopen include salons, spas and tattoo and piercing studios.
Regulations on P.E.I.
Under provincial regulations, Sinnott is allowed to have up to 50 customers inside the bars at one time for dining. At Hunter's Ale House in Charlottetown, plexiglass is installed between booth seating and tables are spaced at least two metres apart. Servers are not required to wear masks; instead, they can take orders and a food runner wearing a mask will deliver them.
Tables will be cleaned once customers leave and then sprayed with a solution designed to kill COVID-19. That solution will sit for at least five minutes, and then the table will be wiped down again before a customer can sit.
Bar seating has been removed, Sinnott said.
Even with dining coming back, takeouts and deliveries will still be a part of the business, especially with apps designed to make those purchases easier, he said.
Nova Scotia gearing up
In Nova Scotia, the next phase of reopenings begins June 5. Craig Flinn owns fine dining restaurant Chives in Halifax, plus two locations of the more casual Two Doors Down, one in Halifax and one in Dartmouth.
He was to have a brainstorming session with partners Thursday night to plan the way forward.
“All I’ve done to this point is read the 20-page outline for opening that was given out (Wednesday), that’s kind of the extent of it so far.”
Chives has been closed, but Two Doors Down has been doing takeout.
“This is the fifth week for takeout in Halifax and the fourth week for takeout in Dartmouth. We basically open from Wednesday to Sunday for curbside pickup in both locations,” said Flinn.
The accomplished restaurateur said establishments will have varying abilities to get ready for opening in about a week.
“I guess it all depends on the size of your business, how many locations you have, et cetera. I think it remains to be seen if it’s practical, if it’s pragmatic for us to rush for next week because you want to do it right,” Flinn said.
Among the systems that need to be in place are appropriate and approved signage, and dining rooms have to be laid out to accommodate social distancing.
“First of all, we need to contact the vast majority of our staff since we brought 25 per cent back for takeout. We’ll have to bring back more now, so we have to contact them and gauge their comfort levels about returning to work,” said Flinn.
Most important to him is the safety of staff and the public, which equates to public trust, so panicking to rush to open by next Friday doesn’t make sense.
“Every restaurant layout is different, so therefore the flow and the social distancing will be different in every restaurant. I just think it’s worth taking the time to do it right.”
Alma Head, owner of two Alma’s Family Hair Salon and Tanning locations in Sydney and New Waterford, and her staff are excited about reopening.
Under the province's rules, doors and equipment have to be sanitized and stylists and customers have to wear masks. As well, besides Hand, only four stylists with one client each are allowed in the salon at a time. Customers are asked to show up 10 minutes early and wait in their vehicle until their appointment. The business is also not allowed to take walk-ins.
"It's going to be different, for sure," she said.
Head also employs two estheticians, who may have to be out of work a bit longer because the province's rules significantly limit the services they can offer. They can't perform waxings, facials and eyelash treatments, Hand said.
"The only thing an esthetician can do is nails and toes."
Not surprisingly, when news broke that salons would be reopening next week, the business started getting flooded with appointment requests, including about 98 texts Head received.
The business closed March 18. For Head, June 5 can't come soon enough.
"The main thing is to keep safe and keep our clients safe. Make sure you're positive and they're safe when they're in there because everyone's been through a rough time.”