Toronto restaurant is now offering indoor private dining even though it's not allowed
While patios are now officially up and running in Ontario, those bars and restaurants without the ability to open an outdoor space are faced with sticking to takeout and delivery only.
But one Toronto restaurant has created its own way of rejigging operations that it feels is adhering to provincial health and safety standards.
Muncheez Creperie has outfitted its restaurant near Yonge and Steeles to allow for a group of four-to-six people to eat inside the restaurant.
"We started to think outside the box....Everybody was doing pickup and deliveries but we have a great space that was pretty much going to go to waste," owner Ramen Zarafshan says.
"We started thinking 'just to connect with the community, let’s just focus on one table and one group at a time.'"
Since Toronto entered into Stage 2 of reopening last week, Muncheez has started its own proprietary private dining model, which is by reservation only — and unfortunately not exactly legal at this time.
Diners must answer a questionnaire about their health, travel and contact history before booking, and must provide their basic information for contact tracing purposes.
At the time of their reservation, they then enter through the back entrance of the restaurant, which is separate from where people pick up takeout orders.
All customers inside the restaurant must wear a face covering, while staff wear personal protective equipment that includes gloves and face shields.
The table remains spaced from all other parts of the restaurant, and the area is carefully sanitized after each meal. Hand sanitizer is also made available to customers.
"This is the safest way of possibly doing it because of the distance that we have for the groups once they enter the shop... This is possibly more safe than going to a patio because there’s a lot more distance available to the customers," Zarafshan says.
"Now whether the government allows it or not, that’s something to be argued, but as far as what we’re doing, this is as safe as it gets. We meet every safety standard that’s been put out. "
Though the concept does seem logical, the guidelines that the province has set out for bars and restaurants at this time state first and foremost that they "can open for dining in outdoor areas only, such as patios, curbside, parking lots and adjacent premises."
The guidelines for Toronto specifically also state that "public access to any indoor portions of the business must be limited to food pickup, payment, washroom access, access required to get to the outdoor dining area, or access that is otherwise required for the purposes of health and safety" during Stage 2 while the current emergency orders under the province's Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act are still in place.
Though Muncheez says is taking the health and safety of its customers and staff "extremely seriously" and is abiding by all of the province's and city's other rules for operating a restaurant right now, there is still a reason why it may be the only restaurant in the city offering indoor dining at this time (namely that it's not permitted yet).
A spokesperson for Toronto Public Health has said that restaurants who take such actions run the risk of steep fines.
"Food premises that do not adhere to physical distancing and other COVID-19 control measures are subject to legal and enforcement actions under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act," TPH Healthy Environments Associate Director Sylvanus Thompson points out.
These fines range from $100,000 and up to one year in jail for an individual and $10,000,000 for a corporation.
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