Calgary

Local Ethiopian eatery adding safety features to reopen later this month

Yegna Ethiopian Restaurant was eager to open this week but will instead use this extended period to polish off some of its new safety features.

Southeast restaurant to welcome customers on May 25 following delay

Selam Gutema, left, and Anwar Sultan are the co-owners of Yegna Ethiopian Cuisine and Coffee, set to welcome customers on May 25. (Hala Ghonaim/CBC)

Restaurants in Calgary will have to wait another 10 days to open their doors.

The provincial government announced Wednesday that its relaunch plan for Calgary eateries, cafes, hair salons and barbershops has been delayed until May 25.

Some businesses are pleased with the extra preparation time, while others not so much.

Yegna Ethiopian Restaurant in southeast Calgary was eager to open this week but will instead use this extended period to polish off some of its new safety features.

"As much as we want [customers] to come here, we want them to be safe at the same time," said Selam Gutema, co-owner of the restaurant.

Safety features

The family-owned business, which opened a year ago, has already given itself a health and safety makeover.

The store is swapping out its authentic dishes for disposable plates and cutlery. (Hala Ghonaim/CBC)

It reduced its seating to 25 per cent capacity, switched to disposable plates and utensils and added a new safety step attachment to the front door for a no-contact entry.

"You don't have to touch the door with your hands but you can just open it with your leg," Gutema said.

Customers also have the option to choose the buffet special. Of course, they'll have to wear gloves and staff will clean countertops and utensils after each use.

Staff members are also required to wear gloves and face masks at all times and reinforce physical distancing through signs on the doors and floors.

The store added a new safety step attachment to the front door for a no-contact entry. (Hala Ghonaim/CBC)

Customers who don't live in the same household will be seated six feet apart and denied a shareable platter.

"It's going to be a lot of work, but it's for their safety," said Gutema.

Communal experience

An Ethiopian meal is traditionally enjoyed communally.

But unless customers live in the same household, they won't be allowed to share a platter.

"It makes me really sad … I want them to come here and experience the bond that it gives you, the food sharing … all that is going to go away and we don't know for how long," Gutema said.

Customers who do not live in the same household are required to physically distance. (Hala Ghonaim/CBC)

The store has remained open for pickup and delivery throughout the pandemic.

Even though business has significantly slowed down, Gutema and her business partner have donated up to 100 meals a day to people in self-isolation or financially challenging situations.

"But, I miss seeing people in here," she said.

Gutema said she is looking forward to welcoming customers again later this month.

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