Rating the re-launch – most restaurants re-open at half capacity

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

Judging by what restaurant managers told us last week, re-opening their shops to sit-down dining has been well-received. Even at 50 per cent capacity, it is a welcome return to something like normalcy.

“It looks quite different in here,” said Tom Bidart of TA’s Asian Grill & Steakhouse on the first day of June. He was referring to the tables being spaced out so as to comply with the physical distancing requirements.

TA’s re-opened in a limited way on May 26 for sit-down dining. The emphasis for the first week remained on take-out, Bidart says. That was encouraged by way of a 15 per cent discount, which he says will continue through this month. But customers have been dining in as well.
“We’re pretty lucky,” he says. “We have pretty loyal customers.”

José Diaz, the manager at Mr. Mike’s, says the dining-in option started on May 14. The response has been quite good.

“People are happy we are open,” he says.

With seating at half-capacity, people occasionally have to wait outside for places to become available. Take-out and delivery are still options.

The Sawridge Travel Centre also opened its doors to sit-down dining on May 14. General manager Srini Jayaraman says “the phone started ringing” as soon as the announcement was made.

Safety measures besides the increased space between tables include one-time use menus, cups and condiments, Jayaraman adds. He says people “are appreciative” of these measures.

The so-called ‘fast-food’ restaurants are still mainly focusing on take-out.
Tim Hortons was open for walk-in orders (as well as the drive through) before A&W or McDonalds, having installed a new exit door to keep departing customers away from arriving ones. But when The Leader visited on May 28, the drive-through line-up was long and the one in the store was very short.

McDonalds wasn’t returning or answering calls last week and the doors remained locked. A&W was open for counter service, but not for sitting down.

The Fix Coffee Bar & Bakery was back open last week, but also only for take-out.

What else? The restaurant and one of the pubs in the Slave Lake Inn & Conference Centre re-opened in the last week of May. Manager Colleen Chartrand says it’s 50 per cent capacity, no bar service, no VLTs and table service only – all per provincial directives.

It’s certainly different, but “it’s starting to pick up,” she says.

We also checked in with the folks at Hotel Northern Star. As of June 3, the restaurant hadn’t reopened, but the lounge had, with the required spacing.

Anita and Tom Bidart – getting ready for another day in the trenches at TA’s Asian Grill in Slave Lake.

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