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Downtown Halifax restaurants try something new for the cold winter months

Restaurants around the city have been setting up heated outdoor shelters to improve capacity and comfort diners

3 min read
caption Ristorante a Mano is one of several downtown Halifax restaurants that have set up outdoor shelters for diners
Nathan Horne

Some restaurants are innovating to deal with COVID restrictions during the winter in the downtown core of Halifax.

Patrick Gaetz is the general manager of Ristorante a Mano, located on Lower Water Street.

“We’ve faced lots of issues…but we have adapted,” he said in an interview.

The restaurant has covered the patio area with curtain walls and furnished interior with upholstered chairs, cushions, and blankets. They also added rugs to keep the floors warm, and have infrared heaters above each table, said Gaetz.

When asked whether the sheltered patio is warm, Gaetz said “sometimes people ask us to turn the heaters down.”

In total, the setup provides the restaurant an additional 10 tables they’d otherwise not have this time of year.

Ivy Ho is a spokesperson for the Downtown Halifax Business Commission.

“It’s a great idea.”

Keeping customers safe is important during the pandemic, Ho said, and these shelters can provide peace of mind because they’re more open and less crowded.

“It gives patrons another option if they aren’t comfortable inside,” she said.

Other restaurants that have set up similar outdoor shelters include The Bicycle Thief, Antojo Tacos + Tequila, Gahan House, and the Agricola Street Brasserie.

Executive director of the Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia (RANS), Gordon Stewart, agreed that shelters are a good move.

“We need to build consumer confidence,” he said.

He added that The Bicycle Thief’s sheltered tables are already booked until April.

caption The Bicycle Thief is one of several restaurants expanding its capacity with outdoor dining shelters
Nathan Horne

Stewart said a key element to weathering the storm of COVID-19 for some restaurants will be convincing the public it’s safe to dine out.

He said creative ways of combating capacity issues, and addressing customer’s fears, will likely become more commonplace as the pandemic continues.

“I suspect you’ll see a lot more innovation around patios,” he said.

Stewart said other measures, such as RANS’ contactless tracing app, will help make customers feel more comfortable with dining out and hopefully help bring more business to the downtown core.

He said it is unlikely people will see significant improvement for downtown businesses until at least this upcoming fall, when vaccines become more widely available.

“It’s definitely going to be survival of the fittest,” he said.

caption Ristorante a Mano has converted the patio space under the stone arches of their building into a sheltered dining area
Nathan Horne

Gaetz said for Ristorante a Mano and their sheltered dining area, things are looking good.

“If things keep moving in the right direction…we’ll be here to stay.”

Ho said that the Downtown Halifax Business Commission is currently offering an online grant open to applications from downtown restaurants for up to $2,500 to help businesses that are struggling.

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Nathan Horne

Nathan Horne is a journalist interested in breaking stories that highlight the inequalities and injustices in society.

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