'Ready to reopen': Nova Scotians embracing Phase 2 of COVID-19 reopening plan

From restaurants to fitness centres, businesses in the Sydney, N.S. area - and their customers - are embracing the latest phase in Nova Scotia’s COVID-19 reopening plan.

For Shana Lawrence, it was the first time in nearly two months she was able to start her day by going to the gym.

"One would say I have a mild addiction.  So, last night, I couldn't sleep.  It was like Christmas," she told CTV Atlantic.

At Ascendo Fitness in Sydney, owner Shauna Sifnakis said her gym was busy since its doors opened at 5 a.m.

"People want normal again and they're feeling super confident that it's going to happen soon.  I know myself, I've been vaccinated. I've got both of them. So I'm feeling confident," sayd Sifnakis.

Across town in Sydney River, N.S., owner Wayne Miller of Downtown Nutrition was among many restaurants eager to welcome customers back for indoor dining.          

"We found over the past six to seven weeks that people were less likely to come inside and even order," said Miller.

He says while his business was able to get by on take-out orders and curbside pickup during the latest lockdown and phase one of reopening, the pandemic has meant shutting down another location at Cape Breton University and laying staff off.

"First lockdown, we weren't sure if we were going to reopen. Second lockdown was a little bit more stressful because we thought it was a little bit more serious with case counts going up. And we weren't sure how long it was going to go," recalls the small business owner.

In Lunenburg, N.S., Ironworks Distillery co-owner Lynne MacKay says the biggest difference that Phase 2 has made for her business is the option for guests to be able to sit down inside and sample drinks again.

"We've suffered, waiting.  There's no two ways about that," MacKay noted. “It's a little difficult to convince someone to purchase a product - a libation - that they've never tasted before, unless you can give them a sample. So, that's significant."

While some might have reservations about opening a COVID-19 bubble, or to the rest of Canada, others say they welcome further loosening of restrictions.

"You have to work with what you've got in front of you and right now, things are looking good. So, let's take advantage of it”, says MacKay.

Shana Lawrence was even more optimistic about a post-pandemic future. 

"I'm ready. I'm ready for things to open. I'm ready to get back to the real world and travel," said Lawrence.

There were limits to Wednesday’s Phase 2 reopening.  Fitness centres are only allowed to operate at 50 per cent capacity.  Indoor dining is capped at 10 people per table, and sit-in service ends no later than 11 p.m.  

Nova Scotia’s Phase 3 of reopening is tentatively set for June 30.