Ottawa bars, restaurants ready to welcome patio season

Some local businesses say they’re not ready to reopen just yet

Joseph Tunney · CBC News · Jun 09, 2020

Restaurant patios in much of Ontario including Ottawa will be allowed to reopen Friday. (Michel Aspirot/CBC)

For weeks now, customers have been calling Mexicali Rosa’s to ask when the restaurant’s patio overlooking Dows Lake will be ready to welcome them back.

Now, following Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s announcement that Stage 2 of the province’s reopening plan will go ahead Friday, co-owner Eli Aramouni can finally give them an answer.

“I can’t stress [enough] how happy we are, how happy everyone is,” Eli Aramouni said. “We’re happy to get back to work.”

Hairdressers, tattoo parlors, places of worship and yes, restaurant patios, in most regions including eastern Ontario can finally get back down to business Friday — those that are still standing, that is.

Aramouni said it’s been a difficult few months, especially the last few weeks, since his restaurant relies on its patio to draw customers during the warmer weather.

“It was a very, very rough time for all of us,” he said. “Every day was such a loss.”

Tattoo parlours are among the businesses that will be allowed to reopen Friday, but some say they lack the personal protective equipment. (Photo taken by Meagan Constantineau)

No rush to re-open 

But not all business owners are racing to reopen.

Dan Allaston, owner of New Moon Tattoo, which has two locations in Ottawa, said his business won’t be reopening on Friday. 

“We had hoped for a little more notice,” he said on Monday, the day of Ford’s announcement.

While Allaston’s business is no stranger to strict hygiene and safety protocols, he said he’s been struggling to secure a sufficient supply of personal protective equipment for his staff and customers.

“We’re going to take a little time and make sure we’re nice and settled in our protocol before we throw the doors open,” he said.

‘I’m not quite ready to go back’

Paula Whitelocke, owner of Curly Hair Designs, also doesn’t plan to reopen Friday.

“It’s going to take us time,” Whitelocke told CBC Radio’s All In A Day on Monday. “I really have to consider the plan that is in place [for] how I’m actually going to take care of clients that have been waiting for months and months and months.”  All in a Day Stage 2 of reopening Ontario’s economy starts on Friday 15:25 We check in with two local business-owners to hear what it’ll mean for them 15:25

Whitelocke attended last week’s anti-Black racism protest on Parliament Hill and plans to self-isolate for 14 days to limit any potential spread of the virus. 

When she does reopen her salon, she said strict protocols will limit how many appointments she can book each day.

As a Black business owner, the killing of George Floyd and the global wave of protest it sparked has also exacted an emotional toll, she said.

“I feel like emotionally, I’m not quite ready to go back,” she said. “I’d be lying if I said I’ve been prepared and gung-ho.”

‘It’s a relief’

David Mangano, co-owner of the ByWard Market’s The Grand Pizzeria and Bar, said he’s thrilled the province is finally allowing patios to open. 

‘It’s a relief,’ said David Mangano, co-owner of The Grand Pizzeria and Bar. The ByWard Market restaurant was fined on the weekend for allowing patrons to eat their takeout orders on its patio. (Jean-Francois Poudrier/Radio-Canada )

The restaurant was handed an $880 fine on the weekend for contravening provincial emergency orders by allowing customers to eat their takeout food on its patio. 

“It’s a relief,” Mangano said. “You know, it’s getting into … sort of a panic situation, not just for restaurants but for small businesses in general.”

Back at Dows Lake, Aramouni said Mexicali Rosa’s let go about three-quarters of its employees when the restaurant switched to takeout only. He’s now started re-hiring staff for what he hopes will be a steady flow of customers on the patio.   

“Takeout isn’t the same as people sitting in, dining in and getting full service, especially tips for the servers,” he said. “It makes a world of a difference for them.”

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