One household per table rule faces backlash in Manitoba restaurants

Some Manitoba restaurants say the proposed changes to health orders don't go far enough, as they are having trouble enforcing Manitoba's 'one household per table rule' – a rule some say is isolating for those who live alone.

Dining out is something that Bob Holliday likes to do every week. Before the pandemic, he met his friends every Friday and Saturday for breakfast - now he eats alone.

"There used to be two or three of us, the same people week in and week out we sat together," he said. "The other morning my cousin showed up and he sat six feet away from me at a table."

On Thursday, the province asked Manitobans for their feedback on possible changes to public health orders.

For the restaurant industry, the province is considering upping capacity limits to 50 per cent, though the one household per table rule will remain.

For people like Holliday who live alone, the rule can be isolating.

"So many restaurants have those dividers - but you have to sit by yourself," he said.

While legally it can reopen to patrons, the Oakwood on Osborne is still only offering takeout.

Owner Wendy May said the one household per table rule is the reason she's decided to keep the dining room closed. She said she isn't comfortable policing her guests.

"If you live alone, you can have two designated people come to your home and that's great, but at the same time how is that different from them being able to go and have a cup of coffee or have lunch with those same two people?" she said.

May would like to see capacity upped to 50 per cent and a removal of the one household rule.

On Sargent Avenue, Harman's Cafe is also choosing to stay closed for dine-in.

Owner Desta Negatu said checking customers’ IDs to make sure they are from the same household is not easy.

"Some people, they don't understand," Negatu said. "I can't interview them, at the same time I have to cook, at the same time I have to serve."

Dr. Jazz Atwal, the deputy chief provincial public health officer, said the province wants restaurants and businesses to reopen - but it also wants to limit risk.

"Pushing it up to 50 per cent, it allows more families to go out together, to go out to eat," he said. "It allows the businesses to adjust to a higher volume within that facility and see how that operationalizes."

Holliday said he is looking forward to the day he doesn't have to eat alone, and he has plans for when that day comes.

"I'd take my niece for fries at the Red Top instead of me picking them up and taking them to her house."

Some restaurants CTV News spoke with said having the option to open at 25 per cent capacity means they no longer qualify for financial support from the province - adding to the challenge of trying to reopen.

Any changes made to health regulations will be implemented in two phases over a six-week period that could begin as early as March 5 and again on March 26.