Friday, September 18, 2020
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Saskatchewan restaurant customers ‘creeping back,’ but challenges loom

SASKATOON, SK--JULY30/2020 - 0731 news restaurant struggles - Victoria Charney serves drinks on the patio at Las Palapas. The manager of Las Palapas said the restaurant is doing great business despite the ongoing social distancing requirement that prohibit restaurants from seating full capacity. Photo taken in Saskatoon, SK on Thursday, July 30, 2020. (Saskatoon StarPhoenix/Michelle Berg)
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Las Palapas closed down completely and had just launched a takeout service when restaurants were allowed to return. The staff of about 45 has now been restored.

On July 6, eateries and pubs were allowed to open to full capacity, but distancing and table limits remained. The province also introduced a rule that required workers to wear masks when physical distancing is not possible.

“It’s become a way of life,” Wosminity said. “We wear the mask, sometimes for eight or nine hours. And it’s hot and you struggle and you go home feeling like a raisin.”

Jim Bence, president and CEO of the Saskatchewan Hotel and Hospitality Association, called the move to allow full capacity “a good signal,” but added that distancing rules mean most can’t accommodate any more customers.

Despite the success of places like Las Palapas, Bence said many are finding customers slow to return.

“There has not been a rush back to restaurants,” he said. “It’s creeping back.”

Bence noted summer is a traditionally busy time for restaurants and bars. He’s already wondering whether a reluctance to stage Christmas parties will deal a devastating blow.

He warned the current situation will not be sustainable for many restaurants and he thinks the start of next year could be telling — it might not be much better than this year.

Originally, the association estimated it would take 12 to 18 months for the hospitality industry to recover, but it’s looking more like 24 to 30 months, Bence said.



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