While the Sandtrap Pub and Grill gets some tourists from Toronto, most of the clientele is local, says Paul Dietsch, who, with his brother Matt, owns the Mary Street restaurant.
The recent regional restriction of one household per table “has really hit us hard,” he says.
Although the provincial move of Niagara to orange from the yellow zone has imposed further restrictions, “we have to do what we can” with the rising number of cases, he says.
The provincial limit of only four people to a table doesn’t really change anything — it’s what they’ve been doing at the Sandtrap anyway.
They’ve also installed plexiglass, have been taking contact information, and are following all the rules to keep their patrons safe.
But he has regular customers, groups of women who don’t live together who come in regularly for lunch, and now he can’t sit them together. “They come for some social interaction, but they’re not allowed to have lunch together,” he says.
He has customers who come as a group of two couples, and they’re not supposed to sit together, and men he knows work together, but can’t eat together.
“What’s the point of them being out for a meal together if they can’t sit at the same table?”
The restaurant has developed a bit of a local beer crowd, men who stop by for a couple of beers, but they don’t stay long. They like to chat at the bar for an hour or so before heading home.
“They can’t sit at the bar together, so why would they come in?”
As he was talking to The Local, with an almost empty restaurant at lunch time, he saw two women come in the door.
“I’m sure they don’t live together,” he says.
He has some visitors from out of town stop by for a meal, and he’s sure, when he asks if they are from the same household, that they aren’t, but they say they are and he seats them.
Locals who come in regularly are honest, and he has to tell them he can’t seat them together.
“The same thing is happening all over town,” he says. “This regulation is the most impactful. It’s really hard to turn people away when the restaurant is empty.”
He doesn’t get the young crowd the regional restrictions are aimed at, he says. “We maybe have some people, in the 30 to 50 age group, and lots of seniors. Turning them away because they come in with friends
is really hurting us.”
Just when they thought business was getting a little better, it got worse, he says.
“I have no problem following the provincial restrictions. I think they’re necessary, and I’m happy to do everything they ask us to do. But this seems very unfair.”