WINDSOR, ONT. -- Ontario is on the cusp of getting back to business.

On Friday morning, a number of different types of businesses will enter step one of the province’s new reopening framework, including in-person restaurant dining on outdoor patios.

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Despite the list of rules like masking while moving around, contact tracing and four-person table limits, restauranteurs are over-the-moon about the return.

“The hope was there, dashed. And the hope was there, and dashed again,” says John Flynn, the taphouse manager at Chapter Two Brewing in Walkerville. “It seems like this is hopefully going to stick.”

Staff are also back and busy setting up the extended patio at Jose’s Bar and Grill on Howard Avenue in Windsor. The restaurant has been grinding it out with takeout-only options for the last few months.

“Tomorrow we’ll be so busy and it’s going to be joyous and fun. Fun. That’s the key word,” says Ernie Nesbitt, a co-owner at Jose’s.

Despite financial challenges brought on by the pandemic, the ownership group is staying positive, and investing heavily in a large, outdoor patio to safely fit as many customers as possible.

“You’ve gotta make bold decisions. There’s no room for scaling back and holding back, you gotta believe in the future,” Nesbitt says. “It’s brought a new element to our business and quite frankly, I think el fresco dining will be a thing of the future and I think it’s here to stay.”

The owner at Walkerville Eatery says they’ve been here before, but remains cautiously optimistic restaurants will be able to stay open for the remainder of the season by following the province’s rules and keeping customers safe and happy.

“We’re going at it as if this is a new beginning. We’re going to take care of our guests,” says Mark Hawken of Walkerville Brewery. “And have them come in, welcome them back and hopefully, stay open.”

Bars and restaurants will now be able to stay open and serve guests until 2 a.m.

Hawken has hired almost entirely new staff, which is busy doing last minute prep ahead of the big day.

“We just make it happen. And that’s what we’re going to do starting tomorrow, and it’s what we do best, that’s why we’re in the business,” he says.

PANDEMIC DINING ETIQUETTE

While everyone’s excited to get back to business, customers would do well to brush up on their pandemic dining etiquette, says Adriano Ciotoli of Windsor Eats.

“Try not to ruin it, to put it nicely,” Ciotoli says.

He’s sharing a etiquette tip-sheet for customers to keep in mind, including many important considerations:

  • -Make reservations: It’s the least you can do when dining out. It helps a restaurant prep the right amount of food, eliminating waste and allows them to staff properly. Every bit of saved money counts.
  • -Don’t bail on reservations: Restaurants typically lose money when someone makes a reservation and then doesn’t show up.
  • -Don’t complain: All the restaurants are doing what’s legally mandated of them during the pandemic. Don’t like giving your contact into? Don’t like scanning a QR code? Don’t like wearing a mask? Don’t dine out.
  • -Wear a mask: We’re how long into this thing and you still won’t wear a mask? Give your head a shake. Whether you like it on not, it’s mandated to wear within restaurants. Show the staff some common courtesy and wear it.
  • -Keep yourself on time: The counts for arriving for your reservation and also the duration of your seating. Many restaurants have mandated time allotments to help them maximize revenue since their capacity is reduced. This is done to help them survive. Don’t push it.
  • -Stick to your own table: No one cares if it’s a long-lost uncle a few tables down from you. Restaurants can be fined heavily during the pandemic for people not remaining seated. They’re already struggling and don’t need more expenses because of your selfish nonsense.
  • -The limit is the limit: You absolutely cannot squeeze one more person in, I don’t care how skinny you all are. There are legally mandated limits as to how many people can be seated at a table (four). End of discussion.
  • -Be courteous: This goes for your actions towards the restaurant and to other diners. Be mindful of your surroundings and how close you are. Everyone is just trying to have a nice night and forget about their stresses for an hour or two.

“These people have been through so much and have so much stress on their shoulders right now,” says Ciotoli, noting everyone is doing their best to make things run smoothly — and safely — so they can remain open.

“Be patient and be kind. This isn’t about any of the politics or restrictions behind it, it’s about being a good person,” he says.