South Cariboo restaurants are excited to fully open up again, following a decision by the province last week to allow in-person dining.
The Red Rock Grill has reverted to 50 per cent capacity indoors, with 25 per cent seating available outside, thanks to a new patio. The move comes as the restaurant is set to launch its new menu on Friday, June 4.
“Long story short, everyone’s excited,” said Red Rock owner James Clancy. “We’re going to be able to give better and faster service. We had a group chat and everyone is stoked about it.”
In-person dining had been prohibited in BC since early April when Dr. Bonnie Henry implemented new health protocols to curb the spread of COVID-19. Only take-out, delivery and patio dining were allowed until last Tuesday, May 25, when these restrictions were officially lifted.
In an effort to keep the Red Rock running as close to full capacity as possible for the last two months, Clancy had set up a tent in the parking lot for diners. However, he said the first week they had it up the weather was pretty cold and miserable.
“It snowed, it was a bloody blizzard and the next day we had three inches of snow on the ground. It wasn’t a great time for us, obviously, we were down about 30 percent, I’d say, in business.”
Despite the drop in revenue, Clancy kept his entire staff, saying they have been good to him over the years and he wanted to return the favour. Thanks to that move, he said the restaurant was fully prepared to hit the ground running now that in-person dining is allowed.
Karen Owens, co-owner of the Iron Horse Pub in Lone Butte, said she’s also excited that “life seems to be coming back to normal.” The Iron Horse was closed for five months over the winter as a protective measure, but thanks to the patio and takeout service, it was able to keep its entire menu.
The community has been incredibly supportive, Owens said, and over the Victoria Day long weekend, the restaurant was “twice as busy, which was twice as welcome.”
“Every industry has been challenged through COVID, but the food and beverage has definitely been hard hit. We’re just excited life seems to be coming back to normal,” Owens said.
Chef Caitlin Hall, who moved with her husband Lee to Lone Butte in April 2020 to start the Sweet Ash Bistro, said last year was especially turbulent “but it seems like the clouds are lifting a little bit and we’re moving in a positive direction now.”
Despite being limited to outdoor seating via tents, Hall said the community still came out to support the cafe, even sitting outside when it snowed. Hall said she is looking forward to summer, anticipating that business will pick up now they can offer indoor seating.
Owens joked that when the province reaches Stage 4 of reopening that she’ll organize an Iron Horse national hug day at the pub. Bringing back the Outhouse Races and karaoke are also something she’d like to see in 2022.
“There’s a possibility by June 15 that (liquor sales) will go back to a midnight service, which does allow socializing in the community. Lots of people want to come after dinner and just have a few drinks.”