WINNIPEG -- Winnipeg restaurants and bars enjoyed a busy Wednesday thanks to Saint Patrick’s Day, including Bar Italia on Corydon Avenue.

“We had a great night. It was a beautiful day, a beautiful evening. People just came out and enjoyed themselves,” said Rhea Collison, general manager for Bar Italia.

More broadly, business has been fairly good, says Collison, thanks to early spring weather and Bar Italia’s large outdoor dining space, allowing Manitobans from different households to eat and drink together.

That rule could soon extend to indoor dining, as the province suggested Thursday restrictions could be loosened to allow households and their designated household visitors to eat inside restaurants together.

Collison is hoping Manitoba’s COVID-19 trajectory stays on course and worries from some experts, including Canada’s chief public health officer, of a third wave brought on by more infectious variants of the virus, don’t come to fruition.

“We’d get through it, as we would have to and as much as we could,” said Collison. “Hopefully, that won’t happen.”

Concerns over a third COVID-19 lockdown come as variant cases of the virus are on the rise in Manitoba. Twelve new variant of concern cases were announced Thursday. 

A third lockdown would devastate Manitoba’s restaurant industry says Shaun Jeffrey, executive director for the Manitoba Restaurant and Foodservices Association.

“A third lockdown in our industry would be business destroying,” said Jeffrey. “We could not survive another lockdown.”

Jeffrey says he’s also concerned about the province’s contact tracing efforts amid the spike in variant cases after some Winnipeg restaurants were publicly listed as exposure sites recently.

“When businesses are recognized as potential exposure areas, it puts a monumental stress on the business,” said Jeffrey.

Allowing households to eat inside with their designated visitors is good news, Jeffrey added.

Not all restaurant owners say the same.

Candice Tonelete, co-owner of vegan restaurant Roughage Eatery, doesn’t think it’s the right time to loosen indoor dining restrictions.

“I own a dining room, but I don’t think it’s safe for people from other households to come together right now,” said Tonelete.

Roughage Eatery’s indoor dining room has been closed for most of the pandemic. The restaurant has only been serving takeout orders.

Business has been a bit slow, says Tonelete, particularly as more have restaurants have reopened their dining spaces. However, she says, opening up the province too soon could backfire.

“I am not hopeful, I think that’s detrimental,” said Tonelete. “If you do that, more cases are going to happen again and we’re going to have a third lockdown.”