N.S. businesses welcome reopening plans, eagerly await return of tourists

·3 min read
Beginning Wednesday, restaurants and bars in Nova Scotia can open their outdoor patios provided there is two metres of distancing between groups. (Gabby Jones/Bloomberg - image credit)
Beginning Wednesday, restaurants and bars in Nova Scotia can open their outdoor patios provided there is two metres of distancing between groups. (Gabby Jones/Bloomberg - image credit)

Some small business owners are relieved Nova Scotia's reopening plan will allow them to serve a small number of customers in person again, but say easing travel restrictions soon is the key to salvaging the summer season.

Beginning Wednesday at 8 a.m. AT, restaurants and bars can open their outdoor patios provided there is two metres of distancing between groups and a maximum of 10 people per table.

Non-essential retail stores can also operate at 25 per cent capacity as long as they ensure physical distancing, and personal services, like hair salons and spas, can operate by appointment only.

But for now, travel in and out of the Halifax Regional Municipality, as well as the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, is still not allowed, except for essential reasons. Travel into Nova Scotia also remains closed to visitors from outside the province.

"We need day trippers, like we need regional tourism," Miriah Kearney, who owns My Home Apparel in Truro, told CBC Radio's Mainstreet on Friday afternoon.

Kearney said while her store gets business from many loyal customers in Colchester County, it's not enough to sustain them.

"I need people to make day trips from Halifax … We need people to be able to move around freely and confidently," she said.

Shutting small shops was unfair, says owner

Dr. Robert Strang, the province's chief medical officer of health, said on Friday that the reopening approach is slow and cautious, and the last thing they want to do is force businesses back into lockdown.

Each phase has a general time frame of two to four weeks, depending on COVID-19 activity in the province, testing capacity, and hospitalization and vaccination rates.

Andrew Zebian, who owns Phinneys clothing store in Kentville, said he wishes small businesses didn't have to wait this long to gradually reopen, especially since big box stores have had in-person shopping all along.

Andrew Zebian, the owners of Phinneys in Kentville, N.S., said he'd be ready to reopen tomorrow.
Andrew Zebian, the owners of Phinneys in Kentville, N.S., said he'd be ready to reopen tomorrow. (Submitted by Andrew Zebian)

"We all wanted these numbers down, we all wanted our kids back in school, there's no question about that, but it wasn't fair that you could go to a large store and buy the same item that many of us were selling," he said.

Joshua Counsil, a co-owner of Good Robot Brewing in Halifax, doesn't think it will be hard to convince customers to return.

"I think people are just ready to explode and go back out and experience that camaraderie that hospitality businesses, food and beverage, create for people," he said.

A co-owner with Good Robot Brewing Company in Halifax thinks customers are more than ready to return to in-person dining.
A co-owner with Good Robot Brewing Company in Halifax thinks customers are more than ready to return to in-person dining. (Anjuli Patil/CBC)

Counsil said business owners are problem solvers by nature, and believes many will be ready to open by June 2.

Kearney was part of the provincial government's consultation with businesses ahead of the reopening plan and said she's happy leaders are listening.

But she also said the province needs to trust small business owners, who by now know how to operate safely during the pandemic.

"I'll take [June] 2. We have to trust the government is doing what they feel is best, but I would be there tomorrow at 7 a.m. with my doors Lysoled and ready to go," she said.

She hopes small business owners are involved with more reopening discussions going forward.

"People that have nothing on the table make all the decisions for people that have everything to lose, and we need to be more involved," she said. "We can't sustain anything shut down."

MORE TOP STORIES