New Glasgow Lobster Suppers not expecting long lineups of the past
Popular Island restaurant expects to open in early July
The dining room at New Glasgow Lobster Suppers looks pretty empty these days. For the first time since anyone can remember, employees are not preparing for the Mother's Day crowd.
No lobster, no rolls, no pie. Not a plastic bib in site. The guest book unsigned.
The tables and chairs are not set up.
Where would you even put them? Two metres apart? Three, five? How many customers to a table?
One thing is certain, said manager Carl Nicholson, it will be a year like no other for the 62-year-old Island landmark that's about 25 kilometres northwest of Charlottetown.
"I look at it as a survival year. Anybody in the tourism sector is saying, 'OK, what do I need to do to just be able to survive this summer and get to next summer?'"
Waiting for the rules
New Glasgow Lobster Suppers, as well as the Fisherman's Wharf Lobster Supper in Rustico, usually open for Mother's Day. But now, even Father's Day on June 21 is up in the air. Under the province's COVID-19 ease-back plan, restaurants are unable to open to in-room dining until at least June 12. Even then, there will be restrictions.
If everybody opens it's going to be spread pretty thinly.— Carl Nicholson
Realistically, Nicholson said, they don't expect to open until Phase 4 of the ease-back plan, which could potentially be early July.
"We're just waiting for the regulations to come down saying here's how many people, here's how far apart you need to have them, all of that in order to keep everyone safe," Nicholson said.
New Glasgow Lobster Suppers has seating for up to 500 customers across two dining rooms, so Nicholson said they have the space to spread tables out.
But it's hard to predict how busy they will be. Nicholson said P.E.I.'s restaurant industry is large enough to support 1.6 million visitors a year. But with travel restrictions in place, the client base is limited to P.E.I.'s population of 157,000.
"If everybody opens it's going to be spread pretty thinly," Nicholson said. "It sounds like it's going to be a tourism year where you're not going to have lineups of people wanting to get in."
He said traditionally, Islanders don't usually come to the restaurant until later in the season, preferring to purchase their spring lobster from the wharf or other ways such as church or charity fundraisers.
Nicholson said he's not sure when his customers will feel comfortable enough to dine out, and if they have lost wages during the pandemic, whether they feel comfortable spending money.
"It's going to come down to the confidence that people have in getting out into crowds again," he said.
"We will be open for a period this summer and from there adjust to the market. The virus will dictate the timeline."