London, Ont., restaurants race to be ready as province moves to next phase of reopening

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Some London, Ont., restaurants are finalizing plans now that they are permitted to offer outdoor dining to the public for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic was declared in mid-March.

As many prepare to reopen on June 12, others say they are unable to meet government requirements and will remain closed, for now.

On Monday, the province announced that as of Friday at 12:01 a.m., Ontarians will be allowed to gather in groups of 10 — up from the previous five; restaurants and bars will be able open for outdoor dining with limited capacity; and places of worship will be allowed to reopen with no more than 30 per cent capacity, and ensuring social distancing measures are in place to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus.

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Certain public health units — including the region covering the Middlesex-London Health Unit — will also see the reopening of services such as hairdressers and barbers, restaurant patios and more outdoor spaces.

“We are ready,” Joelle Lees, owner of Michael’s on the Thames, told Global News on Tuesday.

“I didn’t think it would be this early, quite honestly.”

Michael’s on the Thames will be opening at 4 p.m. Friday, with a temporarily extended patio that should be able to seat about 30 people, made possible through new exemptions under the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario.

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“This was great news for me. We are on a large piece of property so we are able to expand the restaurant.”

Still, Lees did note a lack of communication from government officials.

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“We didn’t really hear anything until [Monday] so now it’s a, ‘oh my goodness,’ now we need to get that outdoor space ready.”

2:13 Ontario enters Stage 2 of reopening economy amid coronavirus pandemic

Ontario enters Stage 2 of reopening economy amid coronavirus pandemic

According to its Facebook page, The Morrissey House at Dundas and Waterloo streets is opening at 2 p.m. Friday by reservation only and is also expanding its patio.

Barney’s, a stalwart of Richmond Row, will open its patio on Friday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. but is only accepting reservations. They’ve also introduced additional safety measures, including having customers enter via the back gate to avoid congestion on the sidewalk.

Mike Smith, who owns Joe Kool’s and Toboggan Brewing Co. which will both open at noon on Friday, as well as Fellini Koolini’s, said he was relieved and panicked when he learned of the next phase of reopening.

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“Everybody’s scrambling around to get things done,” he said. “I guess they don’t want to announce too far in advance.”

Smith added that he understands the importance of moving one step at a time, but the big question remains: “when can you open to full capacity?”

However, not all patios will be opening their doors on Friday. London Brewing Co-operative wrote on Facebook that they “have been planning for a re-opening and are taking extra time to ensure we deliver the experience you expect in a safe and responsible manner.” In the meantime, they continue to offer walk-up, curb-side, and home delivery programs.

The Singing Chef, meanwhile, said while they are not able to open a patio on Friday they are “a local business that wants to support and wish all the other local restaurants best of luck on Friday!”

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–With files from Global News’ Jessica Patton.

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© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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