Manitoba restaurants resume indoor dining

Manitoba restaurants and bars reopened among a slew of loosened restrictions starting Saturday, June 26.

Manitoba restaurants and bars can now open at 25 per cent indoor capacity and 50 per cent capacity for outdoor dining. Those dining indoors must be from the same household unless all patrons at the table are fully vaccinated.

Up to eight people can eat at an outdoor table and can all be from different households, regardless of immunization status.

Restaurants and bars are required to close to the public between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., but can still allow delivery and takeout during these hours.

Meanwhile, malls can also open their public food courts at 25 per cent capacity with the same rules re: tables as indoor dining.

Before this loosening of restrictions, Manitoba restaurants were limited to takeout and delivery services.

RELATED: Nova Scotia indoor dining reopens June 16

Earlier than planned

“Manitobans have earned an earlier reopening,” said Premier Brian Pallister in a release. “Together, we have beat back the third wave and have booked first and second dose vaccinations in record numbers. After nearly a year and half fighting COVID-19, it is time for Manitobans to regain their freedoms and enjoy a summer we all want, and have rightfully earned.”

Indeed, officials said last week that the first milestone of 70 per cent of Manitobans aged 12 and up having their first dose and 25 per cent having their second dose had been achieved earlier than the original July 1 target.

Manitoba is now set to remain under these new conditions until August 2, at which point openings will increase to 50 per cent capacity as long as the province hits 75 per cent first dose vaccination and 50 per cent second dose rates by the August long weekend.

RELATED: Alberta indoor dining back on the table from June 10

A struggle for some

However, the earlier-than-anticipated reopening is causing problems for some operators, mostly when it comes to staffing.

Peter Truong, who runs Kyu Bistro, said that after weeks of closure, finding enough staff who are willing and able to return at short notice for a limited capacity is challenging. As a result of that and of the shifted parameters within which restaurants can work, staff would be tasked with extra responsibility.

“We’re not going to be open [for dine-in]. We’re just not prepared,” he told CBC. “There are a few [staff] that really need the income and want to come back, but there are a few that just want to relax and enjoy the summer while they can.”

RELATED: Ontario restaurant sales and bills jump as patios open

East India Company owner and Manitoba Restaurant and Food Services Association board member Sachit Mehra said that drawing in staff at 25 per cent capacity may not be worthwhile for many businesses.

“If you have a smaller establishment [it] may just mean one table — and the ability to profit off of one table, it may not make sense anymore to run that,” Mehra said. 

Shaun Jeffrey, the director of the restaurant association, has cited member survey figures that suggest only 32 per cent of restaurant staff plan to return to an industry that has already faced hiring challenges. He added the Restaurant and Food Services Association would like to see additional recovery support from government, and estimated t will take between five and eight years for a Manitoba restaurant to reach pre-COVID income levels.