Toronto restaurants scrambling and concerned about patios reopening
Toronto residents eager to get out to a patio this weekend may find some restaurants happy to serve but a bit rusty after months of closures.
Patios were allowed to open March 22 but quickly shut again two weeks later after a surge in COVID-19 cases sent the province into lockdown.
Aside from that short blip, there has been a long closure with no restaurant service aside from take out since Nov. 23.
"It has been a while for all of us, not just for us who work there but for people going out as well, I am sure there is a bit of collective anxiety but I am feeling excited to return to some form of normalcy," Paradise Grapevine co-owner Christian Davis tells blogTO.
This time at least there has been more warning compared to March, Davis says.
"That was a very big scramble and very stressful."
A post in the Food and Wine Industry Navigator Facebook group noted how it can be difficult for restaurants to suddenly reopen.
"Beer lines need to be cleaned, staff need to be called back, some staff will not return, so staff need to be hired and trained," the poster wrote.
Restaurant owners are stressed out and may be dealing with debt.
"If you are attending a patio this weekend, please be kind, you may have worked this past year, but these people have not, and there is zero time for training while trying to clean a yearlong closed business," the post suggests. "Be kind, be supportive, and tip your servers and bartenders."
Rocco Mastrangelo, owner of Cafe Diplomatico, tells blogTO that many restaurants had to lay off staff when patios and indoor dining closed.
Mastrangelo, who also owns a restaurant in Mississauga and knows many people in the business, says some staff members may be reluctant to come back because they are concerned patios will just close again and they will be out of a job.
"We are having some difficulty finding staff," he says. "The last time we got skunked – we opened up for two weeks then we were shut down again."
Staff members don't want to risk leaving a secure source of income for a temporary job.
"These people really need to receive money on a weekly basis."
Mastrangelo says he will have enough staff this weekend and is excited to reopen again.
"We are all very happy that we are able to open."
Cafe Diplomatico has done work on the patio and will be open for breakfast at 8 a.m. Friday. They have a giant video wall set up for European championship soccer games.
"We are very happy to open on Friday — that is the first game and it is Italy versus Turkey," Mastrangelo says.
They are taking reservations for game times and are almost fully booked for Friday's game.
"They haven't stopped calling since Monday," Mastrangelo says.
Paradise Grapevine will open at 1 p.m. on Friday and plans to stay open until 2 a.m.
A post in the Food and Wine Industry Navigator noted some confusion over whether bars can have a last call of 2 a.m. in Toronto. The province confirmed bars can stay open for a 2 a.m. and the City of Toronto tells blogTO the majority of CafeTO patios facing main streets may serve alcohol until 2 a.m. and must close by 2:45 a.m.
However, where alternative hours of operation have been imposed by Community Council, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) or provincial regulations, these will take precedence. Patios facing local side streets must close by 11 p.m. and so that last call for alcohol service will be 10:15 p.m.
But while there is stress and some confusion over reopening, Mastrangelo says restaurants are excited to welcome back customers.
"We are ready to rock and roll," he says.
Hector Vasquez at Paradise Grapevine
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