Restaurant owners hire staff, prepare to open patios

It’s been a mad dash for restaurant owners – getting everything ready in time for the province’s first stage of reopening.

“Everything was dusty for sitting a month and a half, two months,” said John Couse, owner of lieutenant’s pump on Elgin Street. Throughout the lockdown he says he lost two thirds of his staff.

“We are in the process of recruiting and hiring,” he said. Couse added that he was excited to welcome back customers and staff. 

Many servers throughout the city are also eager to get back to work come Friday.

 “I’ve been out of work since the beginning of April so it’s been a very long few months,” said Monika Tremblay, who works at Ayla’s Social Kitchen on Preston Street.

 With so many restaurants in need of staff at the same time – potential employees say they’re are being bombarded with calls.

 “I applied to a bunch of places three months ago and now I’m hearing back from them,” said one server.  

 “All the restaurants in the city are looking for staff at the same time which is a challenge,” added Couse.

 Starting Friday at 12:01 a.m. restaurants can open patios. Tables of up to four people are allowed and last call at patios is 2 a.m.

 “To get two o’clock it’s amazing,” said Dreammind group CEO, Abbis Mahmoud.

Many of his establishments like the Waverley on Elgin Street will be opening doors when the clock ticks past midnight.  

“It’s been a long time coming. I’m really really excited we just need to do it safely,” he said.

Earlier this spring restaurants needed to close at 10 p.m. – with alcohol sales wrapping at 9.

Mahmoud said the extension will be a much needed boost to an industry with many struggling to survive.  

“If it is nine o’clock it’s not worthwhile, now it goes to two o’clock we can give 8 hour shifts - full shifts,” he explained. For his staff, safety protocols like rapid testing on-site will be in place.

 While owners and staff share the feelings of excitement around reopening, they ask patio goers to be patient in the coming days.

 “You have to understand the restaurant business is a performance business,” said Couse. “If you’re out of practice it’s hard to be spot on the first few shifts you got to get back to routine.”