N.S. restaurant creates designated dining space for the 'COVID cautious'
Businesses trying to accommodate diners' comfort zones amid eased restrictions, says restaurant association
Pandemic-related restrictions on restaurants were lifted in Nova Scotia on March 21, but an Annapolis Valley restaurant is keeping precautions in place in a designated section for diners who are not fully comfortable with the relaxed measures.
The Port Pub and Bistro in Port Williams will continue to enforce proof of vaccination, masking and distancing in its Blue Room, one of three dining areas in the restaurant, for diners who choose to sit there.
The other two dining areas will operate without restrictions in place, according to managing director David Acton.
Acton, who is also a medical doctor, told CBC Radio's Information Morning Halifax that the restaurant developed a reputation during the pandemic for its strict adherence to COVID-19 protocols.
"When these restrictions were going to be lifted, a lot of people said that they were going to be particularly cautious going back to restaurants and that they would perhaps wait a number of weeks because they said it was just a certain amount of uncertainty," Acton said Thursday.
He said these "COVID-cautious" people may be immunocompromised or are in contact with someone at home who is — or they may simply be hesitant about abandoning public health restrictions.
Serving staff throughout the restaurant will continue to wear masks, said Acton, though kitchen staff is not required to be masked.
Gordon Stewart, executive director of the Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia, said his group has been keeping an eye on the effect of lifting restrictions.
"We were suggesting that as much as possible, you might want to retain ... masking to make your customers feel good," he said.
"A lot [of restaurants] were concerned about their own people ... we have a labour shortage, so they can't afford to be down two or three people."
Surveys sent to restaurants
Stewart said there has been a shift in consumer behaviour as people determine what is in their comfort zone, and establishments try to accommodate that change.
He said the restaurant association has sent out surveys to find out how many restaurants are keeping mandatory masking in place for serving staff.
With the emergence of the BA.2 subvariant of COVID-19 and increasing hospitalization rates in parts of Europe and Asia, Acton said he plans to keep the Blue Room section going for a while and perhaps expand it.
As a doctor, he said he's very aware of the impact COVID-19 has had on Valley Regional Hospital in Kentville and its staff.
"Everybody in the hospital wears a mask all day," he said. "I think it's not a huge imposition to be wearing masks."
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With files from CBC Radio's Information Morning Halifax