Local restaurants adapt to COVID-19 as patios open

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Many restaurants in North Grenville opened their patios on Friday, June 12, in response to Premier Doug Ford’s announcement that they were included in the province’s phase two of re-opening. Paul Cormier of Salamanders Restaurant in Kemptville was ready and waiting for the announcement that they could open their patio a couple weeks ago. The family-owned restaurant decided to remain closed throughout the government shut down. “We were not set up for take out,” Paul says. “All of our dishes require a lot of ingredients, as they are all done from scratch.”

The news that they could reopen their patio has allowed Salamanders to both welcome people to their restaurant, and also offer their full menu for take out. At first, they were only open from Thursday to Sunday, but Paul says they should be back to their regular hours (Tuesday-Sunday) within a month.

It was extremely busy getting their patio ready to reopen and putting proper sanitization practices in place that go along with operating a business during a pandemic. They have space for about 32 people on their patio, taking physical distancing into consideration. Paul says they have been very busy since their patio opened, and reservations are recommended. “That way, we can make arrangements so no one is disappointed.”

Paul says they are glad to be up and running again, especially since there was a point during the closure that they considered closing permanently. He says it was their loyal customers, and Salamander’s role as a community hub, that pushed them to reopen. “Our return business is strong, and we’ve got a lot of loyal customers,” he says. “When you con- sider the quality of our guests, it’s worth it.”

The Brigadoon Restaurant in Oxford Mills also opened their patio on June 12 to accommodate sit-down customers once again. Owner, Cheryl Mackie, says they have been offering take-out, delivery, and some grocery items throughout the pandemic, from Thursday to Sunday every week. That being said, she says the last few months have been difficult, as the Spring is typically their busiest season. Cheryl has been in the restaurant business for over 30 years and she has never seen anything hit the industry as hard as COVID-19. “I have lost thousands of dollars in sales,” she says. “It’s been nowhere near as good as usual.”

Cheryl is very thankful for her regular customers who have continued to order take out, and even offered monetary support with no expectation of anything in return. “A man from Kemptville came in and handed me a cheque for $200,” Cheryl says in total disbelief. “People have been really supportive.”

The patio at The Brigadoon opened on Friday, and they will be taking reservations or walk ins for lunch and dinner from Thursday to Sunday. They have been working hard at ensuring they have the proper cleaning and sanitization practices in place and PPE for their staff. Cheryl will see how it goes and adjust accordingly, as the use of the patio is largely weather-dependent.

Hard Stones Grill in Kemptville was also closed for most of the COVID-19 pandemic. Owner, Katia Charbel, says they made the decision to shut down a couple of hours before the government-mandated closure. They had to lay off most of their staff and were in a holding pattern for months, waiting for the government to tell them it was safe to invite guests back into their restaurant.

Katia says they are lucky, in that they decided to open for take-out a couple weeks before they opened the patio, so most things were in place to be able to serve guests in-house. They decided to reduce their menu to make sure they could operate with about half the staff, and have enough space for them to stay at least six feet from each other, even in the kitchen. There are signs up reminding people to physically distance and maintain proper sanitization protocols, and they have also printed their menu on paper, so that they are single-use only, to avoid cross contamination. Gloves and masks are available for all staff to wear, depending on their comfort level, and they have been instructed to stay at least two feet away from customers wherever possible. “We will have a dedicated health and safety person on each shift,” says Katia.

The patio is now open, and they will be taking both reservations and walk ins from 8am to 10pm daily. “I miss my customers and staff,” Katia says. “It was long enough.”

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