Halifax restaurants can reopen for indoor dining after over 5 weeks shut

It’s a positive start to the new year for foodservice operators in the Halifax region of Nova Scotia. The provincial government has lifted the ban on in-person dining in restaurants and bars in Halifax Regional Municipality and Hants County, effective Monday, January 4, 2021.

That is subject to certain restrictions, though, most notably the mandate that service must end by 10 p.m. and establishments must close by 11 p.m. That is in line with current province-wide restrictions for restaurants and bars. However, takeout and delivery service may continue with no restrictions.

Indoor dining has been prohibited in the Halifax area since Thursday, November 26. Back then, all restaurants and bars were ordered to stop in-person dining as the number of COVID-19 cases surged.

However, a marked reduction in the case numbers in the region over the holidays has meant that in-person dining can resume again.

At the time, the restriction was only expected to last a couple of weeks. It was later extended until Jan. 11, but it was announced on New Year’s Eve that restaurants could reopen for dine-in as early as Jan. 4.

That announcement left many operators rushing to prepare for reopening, but is naturally good news for Nova Scotia’s foodservice industry.

Gordon Stewart, the executive director of the Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia (RANS), expects 90 per cent of restaurants to take advantage of the early reopening. 

“The ones that will be more challenged to be open are the ones whose formula relies on late-night business,” Stewart told CBC.

RANS had previously requested the early reopening, identifying the new year as an opportune time because of the low case numbers.

“We had actually sent [Nova Scotia Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang] a letter on Monday,” added Stewart. “He responded saying, ‘How much time do you need to open?’ That was a signal to us — this probably was a chance to be open.”

Stewart said he knows it will be challenging for some operators, bringing issues like finding supplies and staff in short order. He admitted a longer period of notice would have been ideal, but he hopes the early reopening will be met with “pent-up demand.”

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