Bernie Dyer was busy Monday afternoon sanding down wooden patio tables outside Buon Gusto restaurant on Wyndham Street.
Just hours after Premier Doug Ford announced that patios would be allowed to open Friday as part of Stage 2 of the easing of pandemic restrictions in several Ontario regions, Dyer was getting things ready.
“It’s good news. We’re going full bore to get things ready,” said Bernie’s wife Cynthia Dyer of their popular eatery.
“We’ve been doing curbside delivery since Mother’s Day and that’s been going well … but to be quite honest, we’re maxing-out at about 20 per cent of what we would normally do sales-wise,” Cynthia said.
The province announced Monday that with proper precautions in place, a wide variety of businesses would be allowed to reopen in some regions.
The area covered by Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health is one of the regions given the okay to allow a variety of businesses to reopen with the necessary precautions, including restaurant patios, hair salons, barbers and shopping malls.
“It’s good news for everyone in the industry, that’s for sure,” said Mark Brohman, co-owner of Shoeless Joe’s Sports Grill in the south end.
“It’s a step in the right direction because every bit counts right now,” Brohman said.
Social distancing rules will mean patio capacity will be greatly reduced.
At Shoeless Joe’s they will go from 68 to 35 or 40 and at Buon Gusto it will mean eight tables instead of 13.
“But it’s a start,” Dyer said.
Disposable cutlery, servers wearing masks, disposable or wipe-down menus are all possibilities. Guidelines will have to be made for washroom use.
There has been talk of the city implementing a plan to allow restaurants with patios to use parking spaces in front of their establishment as an extended patio.
Mayor Cam Guthrie said he is trying to accellerate the process that could see that happen. City council next meets June 17.
"My desire is that doesn't mean waiting until the June 17th council meeting," Guthrie told GuelphToday.
Down at Franco and Sons barber show on Wellington Street, Paul Figliuzzi is still waiting for some more guidance about what will be required before opening.
The barbershop is a busy spot at the best of times, never mind with no one having had a haircut for three months.
"I'm not sure how we're going to do it, we have four barbers but we don't have room for us all to be in there," Figliuzzi said.
"I'm glad we're back working, but we might have to have two barbers in at a time, but I know we're going to be really busy."
Marty Williams, executive director of the Downtown Guelph Business Association, said “It’s been a long 86 days.”
“I think this is a reasonable way of reopening things and having low-risk interactions in retail was good and people have been erring on the side of caution,” Williams said, adding that business owners haven’t needed any sort of heavy-handed monitoring or rules.
“They look for guidance and have been doing a great job of being cautious about their own health, employees’ health and the customers’ health and that has been good to see,” Williams said.
Asked what the effect of having patios open downtown will mean, Williams said it’s about “perception.”
“So much of it is about perception. People having a nice time on the patio — having a meal or having a drink — animates Downtown Guelph like nothing else. People love to see people, that’s the kind of creatures we are.”
Guelph Chamber of Commerce CEO Shakiba Shayani said it’s good news that now just awaits some additional guidelines.
“I am definitely glad and I know the business community is ready and everyone is eager to have the economy move forward and to make progress,” Shayani said.
“It’s good news that there are additional guidelines coming out and that there will be additional clarity on businesses that can reopen and how they can best do so safely, because at the end of the day the most important aspect of a sustainable return is the health and safety of employers and employees.
“We still encourage that if a business doesn’t feel like they can adhere to guidelines or open safely that they consider not doing so, but it is really nice to see there are some procedures and tools in place to help businesses do so.”
Businesses qualifying for reopening can do so as of 12:01 a.m. Friday.
Public Health issued a statement saying it is working on what Phase 2 will look like locally and will be making an announcement in the coming days.
“While this is definitely a good sign for our region, we must remain diligent in preventing the spread of COVID-19,” said Dr. Nicola Mercer, Medical Officer of Health for Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph in a news release.
“We all must continue to wash our hands, wear a mask and practice physical distancing of two metres. Following these steps will help keep you and your family safe, but also protect your friends and neighbours. The willingness of each of us to do our part will be a key factor in whether we take a step forward or backward in this pandemic.”