After being served a public health order to keep customers out, restaurants and licensed establishments in Halifax and Hants County are now allowed to welcome them back.

"I haven’t been to one in a while," said patron David Belbin. "Was just time to come in and sit down and have a meal."

Last call will now be at 10 p.m. and doors must shut by 11 p.m.

Despite the new restrictions, Monday was a good day for many in the industry,

"I finally, after the last six weeks, get to say, 'Yes, we are open for dine-in'," said Julie White, the general manager of the Armview Restaurant in Halifax. 

Dine-in service was given the green light a week early after the restaurant association lobbied the province.

But the surprise caught some off guard. 

"We didn’t get any time to prepare, really," said Danny Walker, the general manager of the Lion’s Head Tavern in Halifax. "There’s a lot of restaurants that aren’t even opening today. If we would’ve known on Wednesday instead of Thursday, maybe that would’ve been different."

Bar and restaurant owner Victor Syperek estimates the pandemic has cost him about $1 million.

"It’s not a business it once was and something like this really just kicks you hard," Syperek said.

He calls the most recent shutdown "unfair," because it punished every restaurant instead of the ones with reported cases.

Now he’s focused on bouncing back.

However, the question remains, if the tables are set, will the customers come?

"I have no idea what the response will be," Syperek said.

Owners also want to know whether they may have to shut down again and what’s the threshold the province uses to make that decision. The province says there’s no set number, but the restaurant association will be paying attention to whether or not cases climb back into the double digits.

"We’re hoping the numbers today will be less," said Gordon Stewart of the Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia. "If it stays double digits, that’s going to be harmful, because it shows there’s a spread in a way and where it happens, that’s fairly important too so."

In the meantime, these restaurants will attempt to control what they can.

"We’re contact tracing, we’re taking your name and number, the time you enter," White said. "We’ve got everything up. We’ve got our masks and extra sanitizer."