Restaurant owners are frustrated by the province's decision to allow people to gather in public parks — but not on patios.
As of Saturday, Manitobans will be allowed to gather in groups of up to five people in outdoor public spaces, but restaurant patios must remain closed.
Restaurants may be included in later changes, but currently the province isn’t ready to reopen to that extent, said Dr. Brent Roussin, chief provincial public health officer, on Wednesday.
"This really isn’t signalling an opening. We still have demands on ICU. We still have Manitobans receiving care outside of Manitoba right now," he said. "What this is is more of that release valve… those type of things are coming in the near future."
The logic doesn’t add up for Roula Alevizos, general manager of Saddlery on Market in the Exchange District.
"I was hoping that patios would be allowed to be open — and restaurants in general, if that was a possibility," she said.
Alevizos said she's frustrated big-box stores are bustling with customers while she’s not able to recoup some of the 90 per cent drop in revenue the eatery has registered.
"You’re allowed to have five people in your backyard. Why can’t those five people come on a patio and sit outside? It’s the same thing," she insisted. "Why are, once again, restaurants being targeted?"
She said she’s lost track of how long she’s been closed during the last 15 months.
Bar Italia has had to get creative to make up for losing outdoor dining up to this point. The Corydon Avenue restaurant has installed a take-out window and is working on an app to bypass the high cost of using a delivery service, managing partner Rhea Collison said.
While she’s "always hopeful," she didn't expect patios wold be added to the list of openings.
"At this point, with the amount of first-time vaccinations, I think they should be letting outdoor dining happen," she said. "Outdoor dining with the distancing we were already doing, we hope, will be in the near future."
Collison said the restaurant, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary, will survive, but is losing money. She worries more about restaurants that don't have patios and are being taken advantage of by third-party delivery services, she said.
"Knowing that the restaurant is getting hammered 25 per cent (additional fees)… I don’t think people realize what’s really going on," she said.
Saddlery has some bookings for weddings this summer, but Alevizos said it’s stressful.
"How much longer do they expect people to not be able to live their lives?" she said. "The small things: go out for dinner, go out for a drink with friends, go for a beverage somewhere."
Malak Abas is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.