Juginder Shah says his customers are ‘part of his family,’ but he is going to be cautious about re-opening his restaurant to indoor dining. (Ronan O’Doherty/ The News)

Ridge Meadows restaurants react to restrictions relaxing

Pitt Meadows - Maple Ridge eateries cautiously optimistic on new provincial guidelines

Local restaurateurs are pleased about provincial restrictions regarding indoor dining relaxing, but are still being cautious in their optimism, after undergoing a difficult stretch of more than a year.

After two months of no indoor dining whatsoever, restaurants will be allowed limited customers inside. Safety protocols must still be in place, groups cannot be larger than six people, and liquor service will stop at 10 p.m.

Gordon Simpson is co-owner of The Firehall Bistro, as well as The Other Guys – Pizza and Pasta in Pitt Meadows.

While the Scottish ex-pat is upbeat, and cracks the odd joke, he makes it pretty clear how trying things have been for his businesses.

“When you close your doors you’re losing money,” he said.

“And when you’re open with those restrictions you’re losing money, just not as fast.”

Simpson noted he is thankful for the support of the community so far, but said had he only been running The Firehall Bistro, he would have had to close a long time ago.

“Thankfully we had the pizza takeout place next door and that kept us going. It kept the cash-flow going.”

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There is no indoor dining for the pizza restaurant, so it will be business as usual for the company.

“When COVID first hit, the community was quite supportive of us. Nobody could dine out, so the pizza place ramped up pretty good,” Simpson said.

The Firehall Bistro will be opening up, but Simpson is unsure how many customers they will be able to serve.

“We’re limited to how many tables we can open when we’re short staffed,” he said.

“It puts us in predicament. We’ve got to see how many people we can handle, and how good the service will be. It’s one thing saying we can open, but to get up and running is difficult.”

The Stomping Ground Cafe and Bistro already serves a lot of its customers on its Fraser River-facing patio.

Jennifer An is a manager at the Pit Meadows coffee shop.

“We had a little bit of indoor dining before the restrictions were put in place, but our cafe is dependent on the weather, and in nice weather, people prefer to sit on the patio outside, she said.

“I think we might allow people to sit at two or three tables, but we’re unsure as we have more space on the patio.”

Most of the fare is sandwiches, and take-out style grub, An added.

Juginder Shah owns Maple Ridge’s GM Restaurant, one of the regions favourite places to grab Indian food, and cheesecake.

He had just heard of the restart plan, which includes a return to limited indoor dining.

“I’m double-minded about restarting indoor dining as I already do such a good business in take-out,” he said.

But the restaurateur noted he ‘loves’ the company, and would welcome a chance to serve some of his customers who have been coming to his location for 28 years on June 1.

“They’re part of my family,” he said.

“But I’m going to be cautious.”

Depending on case counts, local restaurants might be able to extend liquor service until midnight as early as June 15.

Two weeks after that, there is a possibility, the limit to the number of people locals can dine with will be removed too.

The restrictions will only lift if case counts continue to decrease, and vaccination rates go up.

Have a story tip? Email: ronan.p.odoherty@blackpress.ca

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