June 18th, 2021

Restaurants rejoice with caution as indoor dining reopens

By KELLEN TANIGUCHI on June 10, 2021.

ktaniguchi@medicinehatnews.com@@kellentaniguchi

Hatters will be able to dine indoors today for the first time since early April when Alberta launches Stage 2 of its Open for Summer Plan.

“We’re definitely excited. This is great news for the whole industry,” said Brad Hayward, general manager of Ralph’s Texas Bar and Steak House. “Now, it’s just getting everything ready to be open for (Thursday) – which we will be. So, again getting all of our food orders in, our liquor orders in, getting everything sanitized and cleaned up so it’s perfect and just giving everyone an overall great experience when they first come back.”

Stage 2 allows up to six people per table for indoor or outdoor dining. Hayward says this change allows him to bring 80 per cent of his staff back and he hopes the rest can return when Alberta launches the final stage.

He says staff are excited to be back and he’s already booking bands for Stampede weekend and the rest of the summer.

“I’ve got bands calling me left, right and centre and I already got them booked in for July and August.”

Hayward is cautiously optimistic restaurants won’t have to shut down indoor operations again, but says the industry has been crushed enough that it’s tough to get excited and be let down again.

“Every time we get to open inside – this is our fourth time again – it’s just an exciting place to be. Everyone’s happy, everybody’s in a good mood, people want to interact with other people and even all the other bar owners and restaurant owners I know, everyone’s excited to see people back in seats, so it’s exciting for us all,” he said.

Thai Orchid Room recently built a permanent patio because it wasn’t sure what the future would hold with COVID-19, but owner Sou Boss is excited to invite guests back inside.

“We’re excited, our staff is excited,” Boss said. “Our patio even opened up a couple weeks ago and it’s just so nice to see people’s faces without masks and that sort of thing. It’s a good feeling to be able to finally be open again and we’re kind of a little bit hesitant because we’re not hoping this will be a short-term thing, hopefully it will last beyond summer.”

Boss says the patio has been a success in its first couple weeks and she believes it will bring more business because patrons tend to enjoy outdoor eating in the summer. She says the pandemic has been hard, but the Thai Orchid Room’s customers have been loyal and ordering takeout, which allowed her to keep her front-of-house staff employed throughout the entire pandemic.

“We’ve been able to keep our girls employed being our own delivery service because we thought rather than laying them off, we’re going to keep them on staff. That was awesome, the girls loved it, the customers loved it and they loved seeing a familiar face from the restaurant,” she said.

Boss says the government’s decision to allow up to six people at a table will help business and she’s hopeful everything goes as planned and that COVID numbers don’t rise again.

“I’m just mostly hoping with summer approaching we can keep going at a pace that isn’t going to overwhelm this whole COVID pandemic where things start changing again,” she said. “That’s our worry. Our industry I think has been affected the most, and between closing, opening and closing, it’s hard on everyone. I don’t want to see that, I’m hoping everyone comes together and just says ‘Hey, we need to follow these restrictions and we need to do what we can so we can stay open and keep on going.'”

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