This past week, the provincial government announced restaurants will be able to allow sit-down dining again, as long as the number of provincial hospitalizations stays below 600. (File photo by The Associated Press)

This past week, the provincial government announced restaurants will be able to allow sit-down dining again, as long as the number of provincial hospitalizations stays below 600. (File photo by The Associated Press)

Red Deer restaurants look ahead to return of sit-down dining on Feb. 8

One Red Deer restaurant owner says it’s “awesome” his business will be able to offer sit-down dining again in the near future.

This past Friday, Premier Jason Kenney announced a four-step plan to reopen the economy. In Step 1, which is scheduled for Feb. 8 as long as the province has fewer than 600 hospitalizations, restaurants can allow sit-down dining.

READ MORE: Kenney lifts some COVID-19 restrictions, reopens restaurants and gyms Feb. 8

Andre Lemus, owner of Las Palmeras in Red Deer, said he’s excited to open before Valentine’s Day, which is usually a popular day at the Mexican restaurant.

“I’m happy we can allow people back into our restaurant. I missed socializing with them,” Lemus said.

Las Palmeras staff will do everything they can to meet all government restrictions that will be in place, including limiting the number of customers in the restaurant and proper sanitizing measures, Lemus added.

“We want to do our part so we can get over this so we can get to somewhat of a normal with no restrictions,” said Lemus.

Patrick Malkin, co-owner of The Granary Kitchen, said he still has some concerns about the government’s announcement.

“I’m happy they gave us a date, I think that was the right thing to do. It allows restaurants to make plans and find ways to get open,” he said.

“However, I was concerned that it wasn’t a hard date. They linked it to the hospitalizations and if hospitalizations go up, they can still pull the pin on it and say restaurants can’t open up.

“That’s a concern for me because if they’re giving us hope that turns out to be false hope, then I don’t think that helps the industry.”

Malkin said restaurant owners want a solidified plan they can operate with.

“There’s a great cost with opening up again, even with a limited capacity. We’re dealing with food that is perishable, so we wish we had a hard date and could expand one way or the other. Opening and closing is really the issue. Our hope is the government allows us to open and then leaves us open like other businesses,” he said.

Wesley Langlois, owner of Mom’s Diner, said he had a “positive” reaction to the government’s announcement.

“I was hoping they would state that people doing delivery and stuff throughout this pandemic could just relaunch (now) if they were ready,” Langlois said, adding he doesn’t know if the government basing steps on just hospitalization numbers is the right path.

“There are a couple of things in there that are odd, but I’m glad they gave us a date.”

READ MORE: Red Deer diner owner who defied health restrictions fined $1,200

Mom’s Diner was fined $1,200 this past week after opening its doors to customers for sit-down dining, in defiance of public health restrictions. Langlois said the whole experience of staying open has been “terrifying.”

“Nobody likes to go against the government and do illegal things. In that aspect, being seen as a criminal for just feeding people is kind of tough to swallow,” he said.

“But the experience has been positive. People have been great, we’ve seen lots of support and we got representation from legal firms right away pro bono to help with the fine and whatnot,” he said.



sean.mcintosh@reddeeradvocate.com

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