By ALAN SHACKLETON
Restaurants and bars in the Beach are ready to host a patio party on and along Queen Street East starting today.
As of 12:01 a.m. on Friday, June 11, the Province of Ontario moved into Step 1 of its COVID-19 reopening plan. That means restaurants and bars can be open for outdoor dining with up to four people per table, and non-essential retail businesses can allow customers back inside to a maximum of 15 per cent capacity.
It can’t happen soon enough for small business owners in the Beach.
There was a sense of anticipation, excitement and happiness along Queen Street East on Thursday, June 10, afternoon as patios were being assembled, store fronts spruced up, and food and drink supplies being delivered.
“The customers are for sure looking forward to it and so are we,” said Jonathan Mishaev of Limon restaurant. “We’re excited for it.”
What is of great help for restaurants like Limon is the City of Toronto’s CafeTO program which blocks off curb lanes on roads such as Queen Street East and Danforth Avenue for restaurants, bars and cafes to use as outdoor patio space. The CafeTO program ran last summer as well and was considered a huge success in the areas where it took place.
“CafeTO means we have the space to do this,” said Jonathan of Limon’s plans for outdoor dining.
He added that he and his brother Benjamin (owners of the restaurant) are both looking forward to meeting their customers in person and having the chance to talk with them.
Limon opened during the pandemic, in October of 2020, and have had no chances to welcome diners to the inside of the restaurant yet.
Limon has been offering a takeout food service and a bottle shop during the pandemic which has been extremely well supported by the community, but nothing can replace the experience of eating and socializing in a restaurant (or for now on an outdoor patio), said Jonathan.
“I don’t really see my customers’ faces right now,” he said of the delivery and curbside pick-up business model. “This is finally the chance to meet people and make that connection. That is very exciting.”
Jonathan added that even with the patio open, the popular bottle shop and takeout service will also be continuing at Limon.
Further east along Queen Street East, The Beacher Café is also looking forward to welcoming back customers, most likely this Sunday, as they have been closed since before Christmas.
The iconic Beach restaurant has not been open for takeout in 2021, so they are looking forward to seeing their regulars once again.
“We’re definitely excited to be open and seeing everyone again,” said Ashley Jones.
A server at the restaurant for the past six years, she said people have been waving and honking their horns as they see them getting the patio space on the restaurant’s porch and on the CafeTO space on Queen Street East ready.
“This has been really hard on small businesses, and especially restaurants,” she said of the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting restrictions on how they operate.
“We’re very fortunate we have such great support from the community.”