Mid-May snow isn’t stopping NWT residents’ dreams of patio season. “I’d sit on a patio even with this -4C May weather,” said MLA Rylund Johnson on Wednesday.
Johnson, who represents Yellownife North, said the chief public health officer – Dr Kami Kandola – told MLAs she would work with restaurants to allow outdoor seating options in phase one of the territory’s reopening plan.
Some Yellowknife restaurants aren’t quite ready to take Kandola up on her offer. In Fort Smith, Anna’s Home Cooking is preparing open its patio as soon as possible.
Patrick Scott, co-owner of Birchwood Coffee Kǫ̀ in Yellowknife, said Birchwood’s patio area would only allow for two tables with physical distancing requirements.
“I talked to [co-owner and manager] Jawah and we’ve decided it’s not worth the while because we’re operating with a skeleton staff,” Scott said.
The Woodyard Brewhouse and Eatery in Yellowknife said it has no plans to open its patio until phase two of the recovery plan, which is expected in mid-to-late June if Covid-19 remains contained.
“We really haven’t had a chance to really get into the nitty-gritty details of it and come up with a plan for ourselves that will both support our staff and staff returning, and also our continued plan to do takeout,” said Thomas Bentham, the marketing and operations manager.
“We’re taking it day-by-day. We are planning to try to reopen for the summer season.”
Boston Pizza in Yellowknife said it wasn’t exploring opening its patio until phase two. An employee told Cabin Radio its focus was on a deep clean of the inside restaurant.
The Black Knight Pub, which opened a patio in Yellowknife for the first time last summer, could not be reached.
But in Fort Smith, Anna’s Home Cooking is excited to get a patio going.
“We need to fix patio tables and then we will open up our patio,” owner Anna Kikoak told Cabin Radio.
Kikoak said the restaurant’s big patio won’t have too many tables, making it easier for staff to maintain physical distancing between tables.
A file photo of Anna’s Home Cooking in August 2018. Sarah Pruys/Cabin Radio
Anna’s Home Cooking had reopened after renovations just before the pandemic restrictions came into effect. Kikoak said that gave the restaurant time to get to know new systems, and a new menu, without being overwhelmed by customers.
GNWT says ‘lots of interest’ in patios
While many past operators of patios said they are holding off in phase one, the territorial government said there has been “lots of interest” in patios as an option to start serving customers on-site again.
Mike Westwick, a spokesperson for the NWT’s Department of Health and Social Services, said potential patios are “still very much in the early stages right now – probably at least in part due to the fact there’s currently snow sneaking out of the clouds.”
Westwick said by email: “We did our risk assessment based on activities in their most common forms to put together this plan and [patios were] proposed after.
“We are absolutely open to creative ideas like opening more patio spaces. It’s part of the purpose of the Protect NWT group – to assess these different situations and proposals on an ongoing basis.”
Westwick said restaurants interested in opening up a patio in phase one, or other businesses with creative ideas to open, should email firstname.lastname@example.org to begin the approval process or get clarification regarding whether an activity is allowed.
The Workers’ Safety and Compensation Commission requires employers to have an exposure control plan in place to make sure the business can run safely. Businesses must also complete a risk assessment. If you need help with these two things, email email@example.com.