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Two years after COVID closure, this Exchange District restaurant is making a comeback

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Two years after the COVID-19 pandemic forced Hermanos to shut its doors, the Exchange District restaurant is making a come back.

Like many other restaurant owners in May 2020 – the early days of the pandemic – Hermanos owner Noel Bernier had to make the decision to shut down.

"(It was an) extremely difficult decision, and a lot of lives were changed in the process of that," Bernier told CTV News Winnipeg.

"We set the tables on the last day, our teams were distraught, we didn't know how to deal with it. And so we left the restaurant set up for the next guests."

For the next two years, the restaurant sat shuttered and untouched – the tables left with cutlery and glasses set out for patrons who never arrived. The restaurant's staff began to move on, but then, Bernier said the landlord of the restaurant building reached out and asked him to reconsider.

"We spent about a month talking to our major stakeholders and to the people close to us, and we were overwhelmed by the response that was positive," he said. "Every single one of those stakeholders really saw it as not just an opportunity to open a restaurant – it's an opportunity to connect us with our past."

Hermanos is set to reopen its doors in May 2022, with some upgrades. Bernier said work is being done to install an air purification system. Though crews are working to spruce up the restaurant, Bernier said it will look exactly the way it did when it opened 15 years ago.

"We're really looking forward to bringing back Hermanos exactly as people remember it," he said.

It is what Shaun Jeffrey, CEO and executive director of the Manitoba Restaurant and Foodservices Association, calls an exciting good news story.

Jeffrey said though it may not be common for restaurants to make comebacks after a two-year closure, some are reopening under different names or with new concepts. Regardless of the situation, he said restaurants are looking to Manitobans for help.

"The reality is, is that when you faced 24 months of four restrictive lockdowns, these operations, even the ones that have maintained being able to stay open over the pandemic, they're sitting on a mountain of debt," he said.

"We're hoping that Manitobans can continue to move back towards our industry and in great numbers to be able to support our industry because there hasn't been a time where we need their help more than ever."

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