Restaurants reopen dining areas on P.E.I.

Restaurants on P.E.I. reopened their dining areas on Thursday after being restricted to takeout only during circuit breaker restrictions.

Restaurants were limited to takeout only for 4 days during heightened public health restrictions

Restaurants were allowed to reopen their dining areas on Thursday after a lockdown that restricted them to takeout only. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

Restaurants on P.E.I. reopened their dining areas on Thursday after being restricted to takeout only during heightened pandemic restrictions.

For the staff at Maid Marian's Diner in Charlottetown the past few days have been rather dizzying. 

"It's kind of like a ride at the exhibition," said co-owner Stephanie Drake. "You get on the ride for a while and then you get off the ride for a while, then back on the ride. That's the only way to explain it." 

The restaurant was open, then limited to takeout over the weekend for the third time since the pandemic first arrived on the Island nearly a year ago.

Customers at Maid Marian's Diner in Charlottetown sit at the counter seperated from staff by a clear plastic barrier. (Stephanie Drake)

The province announced Saturday afternoon a stop to in-room dining for two weeks starting Sunday as part of its circuit breaker measures to try to stop a sudden jump in cases.

Some restaurants shut down completely while others like Maid Marian's turned to takeout only and planned to stay that way for two weeks or more. 

At a pandemic briefing on Wednesday, Premier Dennis King announced restaurants could reopen Thursday with some stricter measures to remain in place.

The tweak in the circuit breaker rules includes a limit of 50 patrons in a restaurant, no more than six at a table and the establishment must close by 10 p.m.

Stephanie Drake, co-owner at Maid Marian's, says they are happy to be open but will close right back up again if required by public health officials. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

There is some concern among restaurant owners that customers may be slower to come back as several Island restaurants are among the possible exposure sites from the recent clusters of cases.

"I think people are very nervous including myself, very nervous to go out to other places," said Cindy MacDonald, owner of Smitty's Family Restaurant and Little Christo's Pizzeria in Charlottetown — which were not recent exposure sites.

"There's certain restaurants that I feel comfortable and those are my go-to if I'm going out but otherwise, people are staying home and doing the takeout and I don't blame them."

Cindy MacDonald, owner of Smitty's Family Restaurant and Little Christo's, says Island customers have been very supportive during the changes in public health measures. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

MacDonald said her staff are following all the rules and doing everything they can to limit the risk. 

No widespread community transmission

Public health officials said during the Wednesday briefing that they are confident there is not widespread community transmission of COVID-19 on P.E.I. after testing more than 11,000 Islanders in the last few days.

Customers are back for in-restaurant dining but table size is restricted to six people. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

For restaurant owners like MacDonald, she said she hopes it stays that way and the province can avoid any more sudden shutdowns.

"Right now, this is the third time, we're still here," MacDonald said. "But if it continues and restaurants are being shut down as they are, I'm not sure what the outcome is, really. After 41 years of business — it is very scary."

Both business owners said they are ready to close back up immediately if required by the Chief Public Health Office.

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With files from Steve Bruce


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