Restaurants were able to open to full capacity as of May 25. (John Tonin/Yukon News)

Restaurants were able to open to full capacity as of May 25. (John Tonin/Yukon News)

Restaurant owners, personnel react to new capacity guidelines

The easing of capacity rules for restaurants on May 25 was welcomed but has caused some confusion to industry professionals

On May 25, restaurants in the Yukon opened to full capacity. It was a welcome change for restaurateurs, though some confusion remains around the new guidelines.

“I think it is good news in general for everyone,” said Eddie Rideout, one of the owners of Wayfarer Oyster House. “It is a good sign that the uptake on vaccines is great and we are getting more and more people to that number where we can loosen those restrictions.”

Corrina Lotz, manager at the Dirty Northern, agreed that the slow return to normalcy serves as a relief.

“We’ve been at less than half capacity for over a year now,” Lotz said. “I’m feeling really happy we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I feel like people are feeling better about coming out because of the vaccine.”

Kurt Beutler, Wood Street Ramen’s general manager, said the new rules will help his establishment.

“When the date came, of course we were excited,” said Beutler. “It is very small in here, we were running three tables only and were able to add a fourth. With patio season we can almost double that, so it is great.”

Although capacity levels have changed, all other COVID measures remain in place.

“People are going to expect there to be no restrictions, and what people do need to know is everything is still in place — we are just allowed more people in the building,” said Lotz.

Rideout said the safety rules will continue at Wayfarer, as well.

“You can’t go from one table to another, you have to put your mask on,” said Rideout. “These are the rules that have gotten us to this point and we will continue to follow them because they are great public health measures.”

“We were the first restaurant, that we are aware of, to close when the pandemic hit. We take this very seriously. Some of the reviews we’ve gotten are that we are too strict.”

Restaurateurs also said that some aspects of the guideline change have been confusing.

“Everything has been unclear,” said Lotz. “What is confusing to me is a few things — we are allowed to be open to full capacity with no social distancing, but they are still telling us we can only have six people at a table, which makes no sense to me.”

For Rideout, the issue of bar seating is still unclear to him since 25 per cent of Wayfarer seating is at the bar.

“The arbitrary nature in how you can sit in close proximity on the floor but you still need to maintain two metre distancing if you’re sitting at a higher chair at a bar, which is effectively a table, is confusing to me,” said Rideout.

“First of all there was excitement, then it was grey almost, there was confusion for sure,” said Beutler. “We had to decide what to do with our bar seating.”

In future announcements, both Rideout and Lotz said they’d like to hear the information before it’s announced to the public.

“I appreciate the government’s measured approach,” said Rideout. “But, I’d like to see when these announcements are being made that are affecting this industry, or other industries, that the guidelines have been prepared in advance so when something like this gets announced it isn’t three lines on the government website.’”

“When the announcement came out we knew as much as the public did,” said Lotz. “Our fear is that people will think it is how it used to be. I think it should be laid out and clear for everybody.”

Beutler said when the new rules were announced, they were able to change course quickly.

“For us, we are OK because we are so small,” said Beutler. “If you had a place that had 250 capacity you might be scrambling a bit more.

“When it came out we chatted as a group and we knew what we were doing right away. Maybe we have an advantage that way? But I think it was adequate for us anyway.”

Contact John Tonin at john.tonin@yukon-news.com

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