Businesses on the Sunshine Coast that have been closed or offering only limited services since the onset of the COVID-19 under orders from the provincial health officer are now able to start reopening.
Dr. Bonnie Henry lifted the closure orders for pubs and restaurants and “personal service establishments” such as hair salons May 14, in preparation for the beginning of Phase 2 of the government’s Restart Plan on May 19.
Henry also issued a new order for pubs and restaurants outlining measures they would have to have in place if they wanted to reopen.
The new measures include cutting back to 50 per cent of their usual capacity, limiting the number of people at a table and “if practicable” getting contact information for one person in every group of patrons.
The Lighthouse Pub in Sechelt, and its companion restaurant Buccaneers, began serving customers again at lunchtime on Tuesday, May 19.
Manager Natan August said they put out flower arrangements on the pub’s popular waterfront patio to mark the tables that can’t be used in order to keep guests properly spaced and each table, inside and out, now has a bottle of hand sanitizer.
There’s a new greeting station at the entrance with signage to remind people about the province’s COVID-19 guidelines and a clipboard for people to leave their contact information.
The bar is now behind two large Plexiglas shields and staff are wearing gloves and masks.
Tammy Lind, manager of Gramma’s Pub in Gibsons, said they’ve set June 4 as their target date to reopen and are currently putting the finishing touches on a renovation that was started during the shutdown as well as making the changes needed to meet the distancing requirements for pub patrons.
They’ve also been busy with staff training and familiarizing themselves with the province’s restrictions.
Lind said Gramma’s regulars have been eager to see the doors open again.
“We’re excited to see them and they’re excited to see us,” she said. “I hear it all the time – we miss you; when are you opening?”
Personal services businesses are covered by new guidelines set out by WorkSafe BC, which were released on May 15.
The guidelines include making sure there’s two metres of space between work stations and asking people when they book an appointment if they have any symptoms and to cancel if they do, or if anyone in their family has or is suspected of having COVID-19.
John Rainer of the Rain’er’ Shine Barbershop in Gibsons told Coast Reporter that he plans to be back behind his barber chair next Monday, May 25.
Before the closure order, Rainer’s shop worked on the traditional barbershop model of walk-ins – if you needed a haircut, you just showed up. Now, after 27 years in business, he’ll be taking his first appointments.
Rainer said as a one-chair operation he won’t have to make any modifications to his interior layout, but will be using some disposable protective coverings for high touch areas like the arms of the chair.
He’ll also have to get used to working with a mask, and sometimes even a face shield, but Rainer said he’s eager to get back to work.
“Having this time off has made me appreciate it that much more, so I’ll be looking forward to getting back in and talking with all the guys,” Rainer said.
Amelia Dunn owns Hair Matters, a salon in Sechelt, and she’s already sent an email out to her regular clients explaining what a visit will look like now that they’ve been given the OK to reopen.
Dunn and her staff have been working to give the salon a deep cleaning, and the salon’s layout will make it possible to keep a two-metre distance between work stations. Appointments are also being spaced further apart, to allow 15 minutes for cleaning and disinfecting of salon tools.
Dunn and the other staff at the salon will wear masks as well as face shields for certain tasks, like shampooing a client’s hair, and when people arrive for an appointment they’ll have to text the staff and wait until it’s their turn to go inside.
Dunn said there’s a lot of pent-up demand to clear. “We have 111 clients to rebook that we cancelled after March 18,” Dunn said.
She also said, like Rainer, she’s looking forward to getting back to work.
“You miss connecting with people,” Dunn said. “It’ll be different, but it’ll be nice. We want everyone to feel as comfortable as they can [with the new rules] and for the salon atmosphere to feel as normal as possible.”