With Newfoundland and Labrador moving to Step 2 of its reopening plan on Sunday, some restaurant owners are breathing a sign of relief.
In Step 2, there are no capacity restrictions for restaurants or bars, meaning owners can bring back more of their tables and allow more customers inside. However, there still needs to be space for social distancing, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald outlined on Friday.
Deborah Bourden owns several business in the Twillingate area, including The Anchor Inn, while Jenny Parsons owns a number in Woody Point, including Aunt Jane's Place BnB and the Merchant Warehouse. Both told CBC Radio's On The Go on Friday they're ready for rules to be relaxed.
"You're watching everything you do so carefully, wanting to always be complying with all the mandatory rules that are in place for safety," Bourden said.
"Just not having to think about it so much already feels better right away."
Bourden said her restaurant's capacity is 70, which is reduced to 35 under current regulations. She said with the lift on capacity restrictions, she will still only be able to bring back about six seats because of the physical distancing requirement.
"For smaller to medium-sized venues, it won't help us out a lot. So we're looking forward to when those capacity restrictions and the physical distancing work more hand-in-hand to allow us more people in our restaurants and in our pubs," Bourden said.
Changes to mask requirements also possible
On Friday, the province's chief medical officer of health also said the requirement for mandatory masks in public spaces could be lifted by the week of Aug. 9, which marks two weeks after 50 per cent of the eligible population had received two doses of COVID-19 vaccine.
Fitzgerald said removing the mandate would be contingent on continued favourable epidemiology in Newfoundland and Labrador, and masks will continue to be "strongly recommended by public health, particularly in those situations that are in higher risk for COVID spread."
Parsons calls the mask news exciting, but is leaving it up to her staff as to whether or not they want to ditch their masks.
She said it has been difficult to wait tables while wearing a non-medical mask.
"It will be like a little taste of freedom just not to have to wear that," Parsons said of the possibility of removing the mask order.
"The other part of it is when we have people enter our building, right now, I always feel like I'm the mask police.… It'll take the stress away and give us a little sense of freedom and be able to actually smile at people."
Both Bourden and Parsons said they understand the reasoning behind such tight public health restrictions throughout the pandemic. They said safety is the priority, but are hoping sweeping restrictions won't return in the future.