Starvos Athanasiadis is offering his Winnipeg eatery’s famed burgers to customers he has not served since COVID began.
It was a weekend highlight for him. Shortly after Manitoba lifted virtually all mandated restrictions on businesses, Athanasiadis, owner of the Red Top Drive Inn on St. Mary’s Road, was seeing some smiles he missed.
But he did not point fingers at the previous requirements for mask-wearing and proof of vaccination.
He says many of those customers saw the region’s loosening of restrictions announced last Tuesday, along with a dropping COVID-19 case count, as greenlight to return to his diner’s red vinyl seats.
“They wanted to be careful. They want us to be careful. And they’re happy that I didn’t put all my tables back again,” Athanasiadis said of his clientele, which skews older. He’s maintaining his restaurant at 50% capacity at the moment.
“I think they’re coming back because they feel a little bit more comfortable and they’re double vaccinated, of course. That’s my understanding.”
Flashing vaccine card when not required
As a matter of fact, he said a weekend without pandemic restrictions did not stop guests from entering with their face mask, and some from showing their immunization cards.
“They’re happy to show us their card, even if they don’t ask,” Athanasiadis said.
He said businesses increased by 25 – 30% this last weekend.
As of Saturday, the province is no longer restricting businesses from accepting some customers. Manitoba ditched the mask mandate and the condition of full immunization for movie theatres, marvel at a museum exhibit or eat out with a long-lost friend. Previously, dine-in service was limited to the fully immunized and people from the same home.
Jason Gilmore, president of the Dauphin Rail Museum, said it is somewhat shocking that visitors are being allowed in restaurants without any public health restrictions preventing who can enter.
“We had such stringent protocols and to go from that to almost no requirements, we’re just trying to get used to that.”
The museum just opened for the summer some weeks ago. Gilmore said they had to turn away less than 10% visitors due to previous restrictions.
He expects a modest rise in visitors in the days and weeks ahead, but still less than pre-pandemic years when guests from other regions and international centers could look back at a century in addition to railway history.
Gilmore said he is comfortable welcoming all visitors to the museum, whether they are masked or vaccinated.
“I’d probably have a little bit more trepidation if our vaccine rates weren’t where they are in Manitoba,” he said. In Dauphin, 74.9% of eligible residents have at least one vaccine dose, as of this past week.
“I know we are going to have visitors from other areas, but I feel pretty safe being double vaccinated.”
Elsewhere, the manager of Emerald Pace Restaurant in Winnipeg, Le Nhan, does not have the same confidence just yet.
Her Chinese restaurant on Sargent Avenue has not been open to indoor dining since the pandemic ushered in a rash of closures. She will wait about two weeks before she considers reopening, she said.
Her customers, though, are getting eager. By mid-day Sunday, she fielded 10 calls from customers for a return to dine-in. She only got two or three calls on Saturday.
“If the cases are low and we’re not seeing the spread, the increase in the spread, then we might we might feel more comfortable opening,” Nhan said.