WINNIPEG -- As the province eases restrictions on restaurants, some in the industry are questioning whether serving more customers is even possible.

The Manitoba government announced restaurants will be allowed to operate at full capacity as of June 21st, as a part of the phase three reopening plan.

“I was surprised they announced any changes, “ said Thomas Johnson, general manager of Peasant Cookery in the exchange district.

The province said restaurants, bars, beverage rooms, brew pubs, microbreweries and distilleries can fully open patios and indoor spaces, as long as tables and seating are arranged so there is temporary or physical barriers or two metres of separation between the people sitting at different tables.

The province said standing service is not allowed and dance floors are to remain closed. These businesses must also implement measures to make sure people who are not seated are still able to maintain a separation of at least two metres from others.

These requirements could make returning to 100 per cent capacity a challenge, said Johnson. “We’re very happy that they’re taking the steps to allow 100 per cent capacity. It still does limit the amount to tables we can fit in.”

Next door at the King’s Head pub, owner Chris Graves called the province’s plan unrealistic. 

“Nothing they announced today will help us at all.”

The Manitoba government’s draft plan, which was released last week, originally said restaurants would be allowed to operate at 75 per cent capacity. On Wednesday, the province announced it would go a step further.

“They (the restaurant industry) felt the public safety could be protected with the distance requirements being adhered to,” said Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister. “Now they will be able to accommodate a few more customers and that is good for their business and good for Manitobans who want to support them.”

But support for the sector has been in short supply, according to Graves. 

“We need help," he said, adding the only way for them to return to full capacity is to install dividers between tables, which would cost tens of thousands of dollars, adding to the financial challenges he and other restaurants are already facing.

“This government doesn’t understand the hospitality industry or the cost of things we have to do if we want to open up at 100 per cent capacity.”

Graves said in order for restaurants to fully open and recover from COVID-19 the industry needs financial assistance, like subsidies and tax relief. 

“They need to understand what it takes for us to open safely.” 

You can read the full Phase Three Reopening Plan below: