'We're not there yet': modified N.S. restrictions creating interesting circumstances

It likely doesn't feel like it, but Monday marked the beginning of the fourth week of Nova Scotia's much anticipated Phase 5 of reopening.

Vastly scaled back from the original plan, which would have seen nearly all restrictions dropped, many Nova Scotians have barely noticed much of a difference.

Capacity limits have been lifted, but masks remain mandatory for staff at the storied Midtown Tavern in Halifax, but not for customers sitting down to eat or drink.

There've been few complaints from regulars, including Jody Nelson.

"Generally good. Not too may hesitations about coming out," he said, digging in to steak and fries over lunch on Monday.

After the supper crowd leaves, the restaurant transforms into Boomer's Lounge a few nights a week, and dancing resumed Sunday evening, although there were restrictions to consider, according to co-owner, Colin Grant.

"Because you've still got to dance with your mask on, and it seemed impossible to enforce, but we started last night," said Grant. "It went great."

Although grateful more customers can come in, industry insiders note there are still major issues facing operators.

"You know, you're continuing to wear masks. You have to have a passport. It just makes it seem unsafe, in which we see results in consumer confidence not where it should be," said Luc Erjavec, Restaurants Canada Atlantic VP.

Erjavec says the results of a recent member survey are also eye-opening:

  • 67 per cent report vaccine passports are having a negative impact on sales;
  • 65 per cent of operators needed to hire additional staff to enforce the passports;
  • 51 per cent are experiencing hostile confrontations with customers over the rules;
  • 22 per cent have lost staff because employees don’t want to enforce the rules.

The current rules are a far cry from the original vision for Nova Scotia's Phase 5, modified in late September amid rising case counts.

Making a health-care announcement in Cape Breton, Premier Tim Houston told CTV News he too, is anxious for the day restrictions can be dropped.

"Oh, absolutely. I don't know when that is, but as our vaccination rates move up, we should all be hopeful of the time when the pandemic is behind us," said Houston.

"We're not there yet."

A sentiment shared back in downtown Halifax at Hosam Alsyed's barber shop, the Big Moustache.

Originally from Syria, he notes masks aren't ideal for giving -- or getting -- haircuts, but believes they're necessary right now.

And he, too, has no idea when Nova Scotians will be able to put them away.

"Me, I'm not sure," he said. "I'd like it soon."