Restaurant owners happy to be back as phase three gets underway

Funky Fresh Café and Bistro co-owner Melanie Quintal thought the first day back after closing for more than a month would be slow.

She couldn’t have been more wrong.

Instead of the odd customer here and there, Quintal and her business partner saw a steady stream of patrons step through their bistro’s doors, despite reduced seating requirements.

“My feet are sore,” Quintal chuckled during a short interview at the end of the day. “I’m not used to this.”

Quintal isn’t alone. With the province entering into phase three of the Re-Open Saskatchewan Plan on June 8, restaurant owners across the province are opening their doors and getting back in the kitchen.

Although Funky Fresh didn’t open until June 9, Quintal said she’s just happy to be back in business, even with a few restrictions still in place.

“We actually had two catering jobs today, so it was busy,” she said. “I was not expecting it to be as busy as it was, but it was really good to be back and see all our regulars.”

While restaurants and caterers are back in business, they still have a long way to go before returning to normal. Like most restaurateurs, Quintal had to remove tables and chairs to comply with government restrictions on social distancing, a move that cut her seating capacity from 20 down to 10.

She’ll have room for more customers once the restaurant patio opens, and three catering jobs over the next three days will keep her busy. Still, there are some challenges.

Quintal and her business partner were able to secure federal funding from the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit, along with a provincial grant. That helped cover expenses and mortgage payments during the month they weren’t allow to open, but the lack of prominent public events and festivals will make it difficult to turn a profit.

“A lot of our money comes from vending,” she explained. “The (Downtown) Street Fair is huge. We usually use that money to put towards our (property) taxes, so that’s our biggest concern—just being able to make enough for those costs.”

Despite those challenges, Quintal remains optimistic about the future. She believes Prince Albert residents are ready to get back to normal, and part of that involves meeting and eating at a favourite restaurant.

“I think everything’s going to go back to normal again,” she said.

While dining establishments were allowed to open their doors to more than takeout for the first time in more than a month, some business owners are still playing it cautious.

A few, like the proprietors of Amy’s on Second, said they’ll need a few days to make sure all health and safety protocols in place before opening.

“As a small independent business, we are making our decisions based on what we feel is the best and safest course of action while complying with public health orders,” read a Facebook post from owner Amy Hadley.

The restaurant sector was just one of several allowed to resume in-person services starting on June 8. Personal services like manicurists, pedicurists and sun tanning parlours were allowed to reopen, as were gyms, fitness centres, childcare services, places of worship, beaches, outdoor parks and playgrounds.

Public gatherings also increased to 15 people for indoor gatherings and 30 people for outdoor gatherings.

No date has been set for phase four of the government’s Re-Open Saskatchewan Plan, which raises the indoor cap of public gatherings to 30, and opens indoor and outdoor recreation facilities.

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