Creative crowd control Seasonal businesses still adjusting to the new normal of social distancing

As the province unveils its plans to slowly reopen for business, some seasonal eateries have had to make tough choices to survive the summer.

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This article was published 30/04/2020 (1010 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

As the province unveils its plans to slowly reopen for business, some seasonal eateries have had to make tough choices to survive the summer.

Yesterday’s announcement from Premier Brian Pallister sees patios opening next week and dine-in services being slated for June should positive COVID-19 cases stay low.

Despite this, some eateries that make the majority of their money in the summer months, or only open in the summer, are looking at keeping current social distsancing restrictions in place, including Mrs. Mike’s owner Steve Mikos.

Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press files Mrs. Mike’s Hamburger Stand has been operating for 45 years.

The St. Boniface burger joint has been around for decades, and its pick-up style made it ideal for remaining open even after COVID-19 closures, but Mikos said he got “scared” by the news and shut down only weeks after opening for the summer.

Now, Mikos plans to re-open Mrs. Mike’s in line with the province’s guidelines, bringing back service May 6 with some new rules.

“We tried to come up with a better way to keep customers apart at a six-feet minimum, as we were told by officials, we tried to figure out what was the best way,” Mikos said.

Orders will only taken through one window and picked up at another, and six-foot markers will be placed on the ground. The outdoor seating will, however, remain closed for the near future.

“Instead of me going out and chasing people, I think I’m going to keep them closed,” he said.

Mikos said “business as usual” is his projection for summer sales.

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While open year-round, summer months are especially good for Half Moon, which serves ice cream along with a full diner-style menu.

“Given where we live, we’ve got a small window to make the money and it pretty well is May, June, July and August,” said owner Wayne McIntosh, who has owned Half Moon for 33 of its 82 years.

JUSTIN SAMANSKI-LANGILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Half Moon owner Wayne McIntosh has owned the drive-in for 33 years.

Half Moon went through several rapid changes to try and stay open while maintaining restrictions as the virus spread. The diner went from 200 to 100 available seats, then 50. Eventually, McIntosh hired security guards to maintain social distancing in the restaurant and began locking the door throughout the day to attempt to keep a limited number of people in the restaurant. After a brief attempt at curbside pickup, McIntosh said it became apparent it was not feasible and drive-through only was put in place.

The plan right now is to “just get through it day to day” and to keep an eye on lifted restrictions through the summer – while nothing is set in stone, McIntosh said he was “banking on doing the drive-through throughout the whole summer.”

He’s looking at utilizing a food truck he owns as a curbside service in the future.

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When talking about seasonal openings, few in Winnipeg are more celebrated than the annual opening of Bridge Drive-In, which typically opens in April and closes early October.

However, BDI has yet to open, due to concerns that the typically long lines and communal outdoor style of the ice cream shop, particularly at its Jubilee Avenue location, would be “somewhat unsafe,” according to co-owner Justin Jacob.

“We are, of course, allowed to open at this time because we have takeout only and our staff and so on wouldn’t come in contact with patrons, and we’ve always kind of been a takeout only-type business,” Jacob said. “But our concern was with customers and the kind of crowd that can kind of gather at the BDI Jubilee location.”

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS BDI co-owner Justin Jacob: "Our concern was with customers and the kind of crowd that can kind of gather at the BDI Jubilee location."

Jacob said the BDI team is working on a “a couple of scenarios” in an attempt to provide safe service, including a drive-through.

This set-up would include a kiosk or desk that a car could drive up to, order from their vehicle and provide contactless pay – the Jubilee BDI previously only accepted cash – and drive to another window to pick up the item.

In that scenario, the customer parking lot would be closed and people would have to drive away with their order.

When asked if BDI had a set date to re-open, Jacob said “not until we can come up with a set plan” and ideally will re-open its doors in May or June.

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A relatively new ice cream joint has taken extensive measures to stay in service, including a pink pick-up window.

Milksmith, which opened its doors in Corydon last February, specializes in Thai-style rolled ice cream. While open year-round, the shop has extended hours through the summer months.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Siuleen Leibl, owner of Milksmith, sells ice cream on Corydon Avenue.

While Milksmith closed its doors in mid-March, it re-opened last weekend with a new contactless pick-up service.

“We literally cut an opening in our front door and created a pick-up window,” owner Siuleen Leibl said in an email.

“We have to laugh about it now, but COVID-19 has forced all entrepreneurs to get creative. We figured when life throws you a closed door, punch a hole in it, so that’s exactly what we did.”

Customers now order and pay for their order ahead of time and are given a pick-up time and asked to wait in their vehicle until they receive confirmation their order has been made. Then, the order is picked up through a small slot in the front door.

Milksmith is currently operating under a reduced menu and shorter hours, but plans are underway to get back to summer hours again, noting their first new release – a collaboration with a local cake shop – sold out within hours.

Twitter: malakabas_

Malak Abas

Malak Abas

Malak Abas is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.


Updated on Thursday, April 30, 2020 8:11 PM CDT: Fixes typo in photo caption.

Updated on Thursday, April 30, 2020 10:24 PM CDT: Closes quote

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