I feel alive : Toronto restaurants open for outdoor dining after staying closed for months

I feel alive : Toronto restaurants open for outdoor dining after staying closed for months
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Several residents in Toronto welcomed the first day of spring by flocking to patios after the province announced the day before that outdoor dining will be permitted in regions in the grey-lockdown zone.

Only people living in the same household can dine together at restaurants, except for people who live alone and caregivers.

"It s a big relief for all of us, you know. I guess my staff is happy too because they haven t been working. Financially, we re all strapped. So, it s great news," Mastrangelo said.

Since November, restaurants have only been doing take-outs and delivery, which Mastrangelo noted were not enough.

"I d be honest with you, if it weren t for the subsidies, we probably wouldn t have been open and we probably wouldn t have survived because we were just basically breaking even," he said.

Mastrangelo is hoping to see his regulars again.

"I missed them. I m going to be here all weekend and all week next week. So, I hope my regulars definitely are going to come by and say hi."

The resumption of outdoor dining does not only help restaurants financially but also mentally, said James Rilett, the vice-president of Restaurants Canada. He added that it gives people hope.

"This just gets them back into the business. It s one thing to serve take-out and delivery meals. But that interaction with customers, even though it s through a mask and a face shield, it means a lot," Rilett told CTV News Toronto.

"They get to start doing what they love."

John Kiosevski, a server at Old School on Dundas Street West, said he and other staff were excitedly chatting on WhatsApp Friday evening following the announcement.

"I think it s a great opportunity for us all to come back as a community and as an industry. We really need people to come back out and enjoy themselves because we re ready to serve everyone," Kiosevski told CP24 Saturday morning.

He noted that their phone has been ringing off the hook. The restaurant opened at 5 p.m.

When asked about how they will ensure the safety of their customers, Kiosevski said, "We re taking everyone s information."

"We have the COVID sheets ready to go. We ve got sanitizer. We all have our masks on. We re making sure that everyone is going to be from the same household as well. We just want everyone to come out and have a good time and enjoy themselves."

It was also a busy morning at Betty s on King Street East. The owner, Andrew Machete, said staff are excited to be working and making money again.

"We all kind of banded together this morning. And we had a bunch of people out here with brooms and hoses. And we all got really dirty, and we ve managed to pull it off. It totally took about three hours," Machete said.

Despite the hectic morning, he said he is happy to see people back in his restaurant.

"I think it s been a great opportunity for us to reopen. And I know it means a lot for people to just get a chance just to break up the monotony kind of the last few months and to have such a brilliant day," Machete said.

"We want to make sure that everyone feels safe and that there s still a sense of normalcy."

It has not been easy the past few months, he said, but Machete hopes that this is the start of things turning the corner.

"A lot of people in the service industry were hurting for a long time. I was fortunate to stay employed as we did like a bottle shop operation and kind of found other things to keep ourselves busy," he said.
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