Date night may be a little different as Sask. restaurants prepare to reopen

Tattoo shops, estheticians, gyms and places of worship are all included in Phase 3, but members of the public will also be able to venture out of their homes for a bite to eat for the first time in months, as restaurants and licensed establishments will be able to operate at 50 per cent capacity alongside numerous other restrictions.

Some restaurants ready to open on June 8th while others are holding off

The Yard and Flagon and Rook and Raven in Downtown Saskatoon will be opening doors to the public on June 8th, the first day of Phase 3 in Saskatchewan's reopening plan. (Matt Garand/CBC )

After more than 75 days of being shuttered to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the province, some restaurants in Saskatchewan are getting ready to open their doors to the public, but customers should be prepared for a very different dining experience. 

Phase 3 of the Reopen Saskatchewan plan is set to start on Monday, June 8th.

Tattoo shops, aestheticians, gyms and places of worship are all included in Phase 3, but members of the public will also be able to venture out of their homes for a bite to eat for the first time in months, as restaurants and licensed establishments will be able to operate at 50 per cent capacity alongside numerous other restrictions.

Two restaurants in Saskatoon looking forward to having patrons come back are the Yard and Flagon on Broadway and the Rook and Raven, located in downtown Saskatoon. The last few months have been extremely tough on the restaurants. 

Co-owner of the Yard and Flagon and the Rook and Raven, Ryan Grills talks about how some folks have been reaching out to the pub to let them know they'll be there the minute it opens. (Matt Garand/CBC)

"We're obviously hoping for people to be waiting outside, properly distanced from one another, to come and start supporting local again," said Ryan Grills, one of the co-owners of the two restaurants.

Grills said he's not sure yet if the 50 per cent capacity will allow the restaurants to break even, but he says folks have reached out to say they're eagerly awaiting the eats. He understands if some customers are a little wary. 

"There are enough people, from what we've heard, that are excited to come back and are like: 'We'll be there at 11:01, we want to have the first pints that you pour,'" he said. "It's a mixed bag really and like I said, I'm supporting either." 

The restaurant will be offering modified food and drink menus to start. They're holding off on doing a full-blown restock to ensure they're not stuck with unusable produce in case of a surge or second wave. 

"That's going to be a big thing for us," Grills said, noting they will be asking their patrons to be supportive as things get underway. 

Carmen Hamm, co-owner of the Taste Hospitality Group, which runs UNA Pizza & Wine, Picaros and Cohen's Beer Republic in Saskatoon say they'll be holding off until at least June 22, 2020 before it starts opening up its locations. (Matt Garand/CBC)

"Be patient. We're all kind of going through this for the first time," he said, since protocols may still be changing weekly, if not daily over the next little while. "If we are busy, which is the hope, they might find themselves having to wait a little longer, but that seems to be the case anywhere."

Ahead of the reopening, staff were working hard at the Yard and Flagon, measuring the distances between tables and getting the pub ready for its reopening.

For some other restaurants in the city, opening date will likely be a few weeks past the June 8th start date. This holds true for Una Pizza and Wine, Picaros and Cohen's Beer Republic, which are all owned by Taste Hospitality Group.

Employees at UNA Pizza and Wine can be seen in the restaurants kitchen on June 5, 2020. Owners of the Taste Hospitality Group, which operates UNA and other restaurants in the city, say they're holding off just a little while longer before they open up to the public. (Matt Garand/CBC )

Its co-owner Carmen Hamm says the first of its locations to open will be UNA on Broadway, noting that won't take place until June 22, 2020. She says the group is paying close attention to what's going on in other provinces, as Saskatchewan's neighbours to the east and west already have restaurants open. 

"We — in no way —  want to be the front runners on this. There's nothing to be gained in that," said Hamm.  "So we are really comfortable in taking our time and kind of looking and learning and listening to what's happening around the country."

Taste Hospitality Group has been able to offer take-out and delivery versions of its menus, so while the pandemic has been hard for the business, they're doing their best to keep customers fed and revenues flowing, albeit at a slower pace. 

She says leadership from Taste have been meeting weekly to discuss reopening plans, noting they've also been working closely with their own staff with the provincial health inspectors to ensure everyone is on the same page. 

"With them collaborating, we feel really confident we're going to be really safe and secure for everyone involved," she said.  

She says once the restaurant does open on June 22, she hopes there is an open dialogue between her customers and management, as things will be different, with reservations required and guests briefed on protocols ahead of their meal.

"It has to be a give and take relationship," she said "We need to be respectful when they're coming in here of the measures we're putting in place, so we want people to be really clear ahead of time."

Thayne Robstad, one of the co-owners of Hearth Restaurant in Saskatoon, says they've had some success as they adapted through the pandemic and the restaurants closure, starting a weekly "heat and eat" menu prepared with locally-sourced ingredients where possible by local chefs. (Trevor Bothorel/CBC)

Other restaurants in the city, like Hearth on Melrose, are also taking a little more time to ensure they're prepared before they reopen their doors to the public, as its target date is set for June 17.

However, its co-owners and co-chefs Beth Rogers and Thayne Robstad say they've had some success in their efforts to adapt. 

In fact, on Friday, Hearth dropped off "Hearth Provisions" to homes across Saskatoon as part of a new revenue stream the restaurant launched during the pandemic. 

"We wanted to see how we could add something back to the community without our dining room being opened," said Robstad. Adding: "We're making everything from scratch, so you're not going to get that at the grocery store." 

Thayne Robstad, one of the co-owners and co-chefs of Hearth Restaurant in Saskatoon can be seen working in the kitchen on June 6, 2020. He says while the restaurant won't be opening its doors to the public until June 17th, the eatery has had some success as it brought on new revenue streams. (Trevor Bothorel/CBC)

Through its website, residents can bring gourmet, locally-sourced meals prepared by local professionals to their home, with the restaurant introducing new menus weekly.  

Robstad said while they'll be taking the reopening on a day-by-day basis, they want customers to know that when they're ready to dine in, their establishment, and others across the province, will be ready for them. 

"Just expect it to be a new experience," he said. "New experiences are always a tad awkward, but I can assure you that everyone who is in the restaurant industry is awaiting you with six-feet of distance and open arms."