Island businesses brace for tighter COVID-19 restrictions starting Saturday

Starting 8 a.m. Saturday, capacity in public spaces such as retailers, gyms, theatres and Vax Pass events will be reduced to 50 per cent. 

‘As much as we hate to hear it, we understand it,’ says one restaurant manager

Nancy Quinn, owner of Seaside Books in Summerside, says she's worried Islanders will be making fewer trips to local shops because of new COVID-19 restrictions. (Tony Davis/CBC)

Businesses in Prince Edward Island are bracing for another possible hit to revenue as tighter COVID-19 restrictions come into place Saturday morning

Daniel Good, a manager at Piatto Pizzeria's Charlottetown location, said the new capacity limits in restaurants will affect both staffing and customer experience. He said that earlier this week, when restaurant tables were limited to 20 people, Piatto saw a "big decrease" in bookings.

"It's just the time of year, right? Large groups usually come in for our Christmas parties and staff events and things like that," Good said.

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison announced the new restrictions at a public health briefing Friday afternoon. Starting 8 a.m. on Saturday, capacity in public spaces such as retailers, gyms, theatres and Vax Pass events will be reduced to 50 per cent. 

There is a new limit of 10 people to a restaurant table, and businesses must space tables at least two metres apart.

Good said as difficult as it is to hear these restrictions, he understands why they're being implemented. 

"We understand that Heather Morrison is doing what's best for us and trying to think of, you know, long term and protecting P.E.I. and everyone within," he said. 

'The road ahead of us over the next few weeks is going to be very rough,' said Dr. Heather Morrison at a public briefing Friday. (Kirk Pennell/CBC)

In a statement issued Friday evening, the Greater Charlottetown Chamber of Commerce said its members find the new COVID-19 restrictions "unfortunate and frustrating."

"We do understand these balanced decisions were necessary to get ahead of the Omicron variant that is quickly spreading throughout our region," said Chamber CEO Robert Godfrey in the statement. 

"While reduced capacity is not ideal, we are relieved to see that businesses can continue to stay open while keeping Islanders safe."

The chamber also encouraged Islanders to shop local whenever possible. According to the organization, Island businesses rely on revenue generated during the holiday season to last through the winter months.

"We will get through this together," the statement said.

'Big impact on business'

Not all restaurants are too worried about how the new restrictions will affect business. 

Melissa Murphy, a manager at Taste of India in Charlottetown, said the new COVID-19 rules won't affect the restaurant much as it was already limiting capacity to 50 per cent before the restrictions were announced. 

She said bookings have also stayed quite steady despite restrictions on how many people can sit together at one table. According to Murphy, curbside pickup, online orders and over-the-phone payments became popular at the restaurant each time tighter restrictions have been introduced.

"Takeout got really busy when things like this happened," Murphy said. 

Nancy Quinn, owner of Seaside Books in Summerside, also said the new restrictions may not greatly change the environment at her store.

"It's been pretty quiet in my shop," Quinn said. "So really, it's not going to challenge my operation in terms of keeping numbers to 50 per cent."

However, Quinn is worried that with people staying at home more often due to new restrictions, Islanders will opt to buy books online from large retailers rather than from local bookstores. Quinn said she does offer curbside pickup, but it has been a long time since anyone has made such an order. 

"It's certainly going to have a big impact on business," Quinn said.

With files from Tony Davis


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