Nova Scotia

'So excited to be back:' Nova Scotia sees busy weekend of indoor dining

Nova Scotia's first weekend of indoor dining saw busy bars and eateries across the province. Phase 2 of the province's reopening plan began Wednesday, which allows bars and restaurants to seat people inside, instead of just on an outdoor patio.

Bars, restaurants now open for indoor and outdoor dining in Phase 2

A server is pictured bringing food to indoor diners at Yolks restaurant in Vancouver in May. Nova Scotia restaurants and bars reopened for indoor dining this Wednesday. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Glasses were raised, tables were full and business owners breathed a sigh of relief during Nova Scotia's first weekend of indoor dining.

Phase 2 of the province's reopening plan began Wednesday, which allows bars and restaurants to seat people inside, instead of just on an outdoor patio.

At Le Bistro by Liz in Halifax, owner Liz Ingram-Chambers said this step has made a big impact already since the business doesn't have outdoor seating.

"Everything feels so good," Ingram-Chambers said Sunday during a fully booked Father's Day brunch. "We had an amazing evening last night.

"Everybody's so excited to be back out and enjoying the dining out experience. Everybody's so gracious. It's amazing."

Tables still have to be separated by two metres. Groups of 10 or fewer can sit together.

While Ingram-Chambers said distancing does mean they can't pack as many people in as pre-pandemic, she said it's a vast improvement over only offering takeout.

Liz Ingram-Chambers is the owner of Le Bistro by Liz in Halifax. (Submitted by Liz Ingram-Chambers)

"I really hope this [reopening] is for good because it's incredibly stressful and draining for us," Ingram-Chambers said.

But bars who depend on music events to draw crowds are still waiting.

Victor Syperek, owner of The Local, Derby Show Bar and Seahorse complex in Halifax, said music is an important part of his business and right now every dollar counts.

He said he can only have one live performer at a time, even in a space like The Local's atrium, where all the windows open to bring in plenty of ventilation.

'I don't understand the rationale for any of this," he said Sunday.

"I mean, if there's a fourth wave, I don't know who's going to make it. I think everyone will go under, and then what a mess it will be," he said.

Halifax bar owner Victor Syperek says he's happy to welcome patrons inside once again, but questions why musical performances of more than one person aren't allowed just yet. (Rachel Ward/CBC)

Syperek said he's been told shows are set to come back during the next phase.

If cases stay low, the province will move to Phase 3 by June 30.

In Wolfville, Randi Magee of Paddy's Brewpub said the latest lockdown and partial reopening was also challenging, but a loyal customer base saw them through for patio dining and takeout.

Indoor dining means their capacity has doubled, Magee said, and now if it starts raining they can simply move people inside again "so that headache is gone."

"It's also just nice to see that people are coming out, that they trust us enough to come in and dine with us and know that they'll have a safe experience," Magee said.

During Phase 2, people can also now gather together inside without distancing up to groups of 10, and gyms are open for regular workouts.