It didn’t take long for local restaurants to begin reaping the benefits of the “restart” plan announced by the provincial government.
On Tuesday, May 25, the B.C. government announced the end of its ‘circuit breaker’ COVID restrictions phase, and unveiled a four-step restart plan.
Step 1, which went into effect the same day, called for the resumption of indoor dining, to pre-circuit breaker standards – maximum of six people per table, 50 per cent capacity, with liquor service until 10 p.m.
Local restaurateurs said the impact was immediate.
Avenue Bistro owner Gregor Mowatt was anticipating good news, and opened his doors for indoor dining at his Comox restaurant Tuesday evening.
“We played the odds that they were going to announce some sort of reopening – it had been two months, so we were hoping it would be in our favour, and it was, so we were ready to go,” he said, adding it was nice to see so many familiar faces. “It was a good night… every customer who came in said they were so happy to be back, so they were rejoicing. We actually had several tables say we were the last restaurant they were at before the closure and the first restaurant they visited when it reopened, so it was a good night.
“It’s been a long haul… 15 months of close down, reopen, takeout only…. but baby steps, and we will get there. I think the folks who came out last night were really happy, and we are in for another good night tonight.”
“It was difficult to prepare, because we didn’t know what the announcement was going to be, but having said that, I am extremely happy that this was announced,” said High Tide Public House owner Deana Simkin, on Wednesday afternoon. “We had a great crowd at lunch today, so I think not only restaurants, but I think the public is happy about it, and happy to be able to be inside.”
While there is no indication yet as to when local establishments can completely return to pre-COVID standards, Simkin thinks it will be a while yet before she can reintroduce live entertainment to her downtown Courtenay restaurant.
“If everybody gets their shots… they say that could come by September, we should be back to normal again, so I am hoping by fall we will be able to do that, but I am not thinking we will be able to do that this summer,” she said. “I’m just happy that we have people inside again… and so grateful for everybody who has walked through my doors in the past 15 months.”
The Blackfin Pub reopened its doors for indoor dining Wednesday at 11 a.m. and manager Barbara Hanson said it was a great lunch crowd.
“We have been full all day and our reservations are full for tonight already,” she said Wednesday afternoon. “We were ecstatic to see (our customers) again. The staff are so happy to be working inside and for it not to be a ghost place to walk through to get to the patio. It’s been great.”
Hanson said she is grateful for the support from the community throughout the pandemic.
“We really appreciate that support. Everybody was really great with takeaway and all those things… people brought us flowers and doughnuts, and all kinds of things. We are just so thankful to the people of the Comox Valley.’
Step 2 of the restart, tentatively scheduled for June 15, will allow for liquor service until midnight, with further loosening of restrictions to be determined based on sector consultations.