Waterloo businesses ready to reopen following post-holiday shutdown

Outhoumphonh (Linda) Goodwin is ready to reopen to indoor diners this week at the Champa Kitchen in Waterloo.

  • Outhoumphonh (Linda) Goodwin is ready to reopen to indoor diners this week at the Champa Kitchen in Waterloo.
  • The province's reopening plan has Maxwell's looking forward to spring.

Just a day after the provincial government announced its three-phase reopening plan for Ontario, Waterloo’s Symposium Café already had a list of reservations for this weekend.

“Takeout wasn’t that great,” said franchise owner Saswati Mitra of the post-holiday shutdown that shuttered such establishments to indoor diners.

After a steep fall-off in early January, things are looking up again for many local businesses as COVID’s roller-coaster ride continues.

As of Monday (Jan. 31), restaurants, bars, grocery stores, shopping malls, gyms, galleries, casinos and theatres are allowed to operate at 50 per cent capacity.

“Better than nothing, absolutely,” said Mitra.

Linda Goodwin has rarely seen more than 50 people indoors at Champa Kitchen, about half the restaurant’s capacity.

Lineups for takeout and delivery have been fairly steady, however, it’s only been open since July — a time when sit-down dining was restricted to a temporary patio on Dominion Lane out back.

Goodwin is looking forward to serving people inside again but said she honestly doesn’t know what to expect. She plans on hiring more kitchen help, as well as a server or two, if necessary.

After stating in a recent interview that reopening with capacity restrictions wasn’t feasible, Princess Cinemas owner John Tutt said he will reopen this week and “struggle through.”

The province had initially planned to disallow concession sales before changing course last week to permit the sale of popcorn and other refreshments.

Concessions allow such venues to make a profit or just break even some nights.

But they won’t help venues like Maxwell’s Concerts & Events, as drinks would still need to be sold in seated environments, with physical distancing, according to owner Paul Maxwell.

“If you have a standing room or general admission event, you have to change format and drop capacity somehow,” said Maxwell, who’s been busy rescheduling bands and booking acts for later this year.

All of the larger tours that were set to take place across Canada have been moved to align with venues being able to open at 100 per cent capacity after March 14, Maxwell said.

“I have been busy reworking all shows that were scheduled in February, almost all of them have already been rescheduled now,” Maxwell said.

“We are planning to run a few smaller events before March 14, mostly on a local level.”

While jurisdictions abroad have lifted many COVID restrictions, including face mask requirements, Ontario continues to take a cautious approach while dealing with a high number of hospitalizations, deaths and staff shortages.

As on Monday, gathering limits increased to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors. Attendance at sporting events is capped at 500 people.

The second phase of Ontario’s reopening plan is expected to begin Feb. 21, when gathering limits will again increase and capacity restrictions will be lifted for the majority of businesses.

“We understand we’re going to be last in the pecking order to reopen and phasing things does seem like a rationale approach,” Maxwell said.

“I think the big thing is, even if we were allowed to reopen today, is consumer confidence going to be high enough? And the answer is no,” Maxwell said. “The numbers show that across Canada. You talk to agents and bands — ticket sales have hit an all-time low.”

A positive vibe returned to the concert hall last fall despite face mask requirements still being in effect when not drinking, meaning masks were constantly up and down.

“Is it a silly rule? I’ll let the general public decide,” Maxwell said.

“We’re hoping at this stage that March is going to be a similar month to September and October of last year where consumer confidence starts to increase and we’ll see people coming back to events, and I think that’s going to gradually happen over the next couple of weeks as we climb out of this wave.”

Other local businesses have also announced plans to reopen later this week, sending out encouraging messages on social media.

THEMUSEUM in downtown Kitchener has reopened for viewing with the Ronnie Wood Art Exhibition currently on at the uptown gallery.

STORY BEHIND THE STORY: As Ontario begins to reopen again, the Chronicle caught up with some local businesses to talk about their plans.


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