Why one reopening rule has some P.E.I. restaurants pleasantly surprised

Some P.E.I. restaurants say they're relieved to hear Islanders will be allowed to eat out with friends next week without needing to stay two metres apart. 

People from different households will be able to eat together, no physical distancing required

According to the P.E.I. Restaurant Association, some in the industry were concerned people from different households would not be allowed to sit together. (Submitted by Gabby Peyton)

Some P.E.I. restaurants say they're relieved to hear Islanders will be allowed to eat out with friends next week without needing to stay two metres apart. 

"Certainly there was some concern from the industry that, you know, would people be able to go out with different people rather than just your own household?," said Carl Nicholson, president of the P.E.I. Restaurant Association. 

When restaurants reopen their dining rooms Monday as part of Phase 3, they will need to keep their tables two metres apart and can have no more than six people at each table. 

But P.E.I's Chief Public Health Office has set no requirement for how far apart chairs need to be, nor has it placed any restrictions on who can sit together. 

"I was surprised at first. I wasn't expecting that to be that way," said Jeff Sinnott, co-owner of Red Island Hospitality Group, which runs a handful of restaurants in Charlottetown. 

"So when I heard the news that it didn't have to be groups of the same family, it was a bit of a relief because people want to come out and have fun with their friends."

Jeff Sinnott, co-owner of Red Island Hospitality Group, says he was surprised and relieved to hear people from different households will be allowed to eat at the same table. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

Dr. Heather Morrison, the province's chief public health officer, said it's her preference that people stick to dining out with members of their own household. 

"But, at the same time, we know that's not always why people go out to eat," said Morrison.

No salt and pepper shakers, low music volume 

To limit the risk of transmission at tables, the province isn't allowing "salt and pepper shakers, sauce dispensers, candles, and other table top items."

While tables will need to be placed two metres apart with a maximum six people at each one, there are no restrictions on how far apart chairs need to be or who can sit together. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

It's also recommending restaurants keep their house music volume low, "to prevent patrons from leaning in toward one another, or having to shout."

Morrison said she's also hoping if people from different households do eat out together, "they will be trying to sit a little bit further apart and keep their distance."

Just 50 people will be allowed inside dining rooms at once. There's also a long list of other protocols, including extra cleaning and sanitizing procedures, aimed at protecting staff and customers. 

The restaurant association said that while some businesses are preparing to open Monday, others are aiming for a later opening date or debating whether it's worth opening at all this summer.

More from CBC P.E.I.


Steve Bruce

Video journalist

Steve Bruce is a video journalist with CBC P.E.I. He landed on the Island in 2009, after stints with CBC in Fredericton, St. John's, Toronto and Vancouver. He grew up in Corner Brook, N.L.


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