A return to patio dining — and sunny spring weather — inspires excitement in Toronto and Peel
|Toronto Star 21 Mar 2021 at 19:15|
Excitement was on the menu for patrons and staff alike as outdoor dining returned to Toronto and Peel Region this weekend with the help of spring sunshine and double-digit temperatures.
“We are really excited to see our neighbours again,” said Shahd Moustafa, manager of Eggstatic on Bayview Ave., in Toronto.
“Eggstatic is more a community than it is a restaurant. Everybody on our strip knows us and we know everybody. Our regulars have been supporting us, even with takeout, but it’s different when you get to dine and serve them and check up on them,” she said.
Moustafa said although the pandemic slowed things the restaurant’s business and changed how they serve their customers, having the option to finally reopen the patios can now give them the opportunity to reconnect with their customers.
“As a brunch place, you want to dine more than just pick up and go. You want to enjoy your morning and have your coffee hot.”
The changes allowing outdoor dining to resume, , included an increase of up to 50 people for indoor dining for regions in the red zone including Halton, Durham, York and Hamilton.
Although there are concerns surrounding the third wave of the pandemic, Rocco Mastrangelo, owner of Cafe Diplomatico, said he and his staff at the restaurant in Toronto’s Little Italy neighbourhood were ready and eager to open the patio.
“We’re going to have a beautiful weekend and we’re going to be very busy,” Mastrangelo noted. “Our restaurant is definitely more known for our patio. Our maximum capacity before COVID was 117 people, bigger than the indoor dining.”
Still, he added, he’d prefer the provincial government give the go-ahead to “open things up completely.
“This year also we have the Euro Cup (postponed from last year), so from mid-June to mid-July we would normally throw a street festival,” Mastrangelo said.
However, he also recognizes the difficult reality of the potential for future shutdowns as concern mounts about the rising number of COVID-19 cases, now with the more infectious variants of concern, and a third wave of the pandemic.
“We saw what happened in Oakville,” said Mastrangelo, about the closure of Oliver’s Steakhouse Restaurant after five staff tested positive for the coronavirus, and hundreds of customers were exposed between March 8 and March 13.
“So we have to be very careful, we have to make sure we are still doing the social distancing,” he added.
Restaurants Canada, which represents the restaurant industry, welcomed the decision to reopen patios and outdoor dining as a move to ushering in critically needed changes.