Nfld. & Labrador

Not wasting a second, some George Street pubs are reopening as soon as possible

They're going to wait till the midnight hour — and an additional minute. Two bar owners are relieved to see N.L. return to Alert Level 2.

Bar owners and operators hope for a shot in the arm with a return to Alert Level 2

Alert Level 2 means bars can serve customers again, whether they order a meal or not. (Paul Daly/The Canadian Press)

They're going to wait until the midnight hour … and an extra minute. 

With Newfoundland and Labrador set to transition to Alert Level 2 at 12:01 a.m. NT Saturday, bar owners and operators on George Street are giving a sigh of relief, as they'll once again be able to open their doors to the public.

Lex Griffiths, the entertainment manager at both Green Sleeves and Loose Tie, is so confident that patrons are just as ready to return that they're wasting no time: their doors are set to open at 12:01 Saturday morning.

Griffiths said he and his staff are excited to get back behind the bar and on the stage.

"We all can't wait to get back at it," he said.

"Our musicians can't wait to get back on stage playing in front of a live audience"

After the most recent lockdown, spurred by a second wave of COVID-19, Griffiths said, people are eager to get out of the house but safety remains a top priority.

"The masks and the social distancing, all that's still in place and capacity is at 50 per cent as well, so all our tables will be spaced out for social distancing," said Griffith.

"We're only too happy to do it, just to get back at it and back in business"

While bars, pubs, and restaurants will be permitted to reopen at Level 2, the same public health precautions will remain in place, including a limited capacity and physical distancing.

"I think a lot of people have gotten used to the whole idea of wearing masks around the club," Griffiths said.

"It's become a routine for a lot of people now, and some people don't have a problem with it; maintaining your distance, still having fun, wearing your mask, and staying vigilant."

Griffiths said he hasn't heard much about what neighbouring bars are planning to do, but imagines other operations are just as eager to get back in business as they are.

"I think a lot of people are probably in the same boat," Griffiths said. "Just chomping at the bit and can't wait to get back at it."

Public health measures still in place

Green Sleeves isn't the only establishment on the street looking forward to the return of eased restrictions.

Don Maher, owner of the Black Sheep on George, said they've already booked a musical act for Saturday night, and are looking forward to a return to live music.

Don Maher, with Black Sheep coowner Valerie Hewitt, says the bar has already booked entertainment. (Meg Roberts/CBC)

"We've got a show booked for Saturday night — that's Joe Tucker — and normally we've been having this Sunday night jam band," said Maher. "That was doing really well in the fall of last year, and up until before the second lockdown, so we're just going to return to that."

Maher said their venue will be doing all it can to ensure public safety measures are being followed, including reminding patrons of the proper way to wear a mask.

"We've got someone on the door who's always checking people for their masks going to the bar," he said.

Once patrons are stationary at a table or a bar, Maher noted, they're allowed to take their masks off.

"But if you're going to the washrooms or going out for a cigarette or something, definitely masks are mandatory," he said. "And we're very strict about that."

Most customers happy to follow guidelines

While Maher said most people are more than happy to follow the rules, sometimes a reminder is needed.

"Ninety-nine-point-nine per cent of people are best kind; the scattered person just needs to be reminded," Maher said.

"People have done really well, and certainly this is a testament to the province. We're back open so quickly after this big bump just recently."

Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said Wednesday the move back to Alert Level 2 was helped by a halt in community transmission of coronavirus. (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador)

With a growing number of people in the province getting vaccinated, and a reopening of the Atlantic bubble on the horizon, Maher said he's heard from friends outside the province who are eager to return.

"There's some people who come down to Newfoundland every three months, or sometimes every quarter, and they're just here on business and are repeat customers from the Atlantic region."

Those patrons are itching to get back, Maher said, as well as those Newfoundlanders who have been living elsewhere in Atlantic Canada.

He hopes that once things return to normal, business will get a much-needed boost.

"We're going to have a little bit of a bump [in business] when the bubble is up again."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from The St. John's Morning Show and Lukas Wall

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