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Restaurants adjust to social distancing

DARIUS SHAHHEYDARI
PONTIAC April 15, 2020
Since Quebec’s declaration of a COVID 19 public health emergency on March 13 and the renewal of it a week later, restaurants in the province have been forced to shut down dining on premises and only permitted to continue their takeout and delivery service.
This regulation, among others, such as the restriction of travel on certain bridges linking Quebec and the province of Ontario, have caused a significant change to business for some restaurants in the Pontiac region.
One such change is the decrease in the number of hours and days of the week a local restaurant is open for.
For Rumours Café in Otter Lake, the change in schedule and the prohibition of dine-ins has caused them to stop doing breakfast, one of their most popular menu options, since it does not sell as much for delivery. The café was fully stocked for breakfast items before dining in was forbidden, causing them to give away products, such as cartons of eggs.
No one has been laid off, but the workers are working less hours.
According to owner Crystal Dubeau, the restaurant is still accepting cash at the moment, however if there were to be any cases of the virus announced in the area, they would stop doing so and probably close down completely. Most people, however, prefer to pay by card rather than cash.
To further ensure the safety of their employees and customers, Rumours is also sanitizing their premises frequently and dropping off deliveries at the customer’s door.
Deliveries have become more popular following the ban on dining in, bringing changes to some of the customer’s routines at the cafe.
“Everybody always ordered pizza on Friday. Well, now instead of coming in to have it here, they’re having it delivered at home,” said Dubeau
The café relies significantly on tourism, such as cottagers, according to Dubeau. Since the province has closed the bridges to these tourists, half their clientele is gone.
“We have an escape room in our building and we have mini putt, which [runs] in the summer. I won’t be able to [run] any of that if this doesn’t solve itself soon,” she said.
The filtration of traffic on the bridges is also posing problems for Rumours’ supplies and ingredients.
The café likes to buy their ingredients, such as pepperoni and cheese, only from certain suppliers and Dubeau or one of her staff goes and picks them up. Now, although Dubeau and her crew are considered “essential workers”, she doesn’t know if this status is enough to allow them to cross these bridges.
“We don’t know how much of anything to order because we don’t know if, all of the sudden, the government is going to decide tomorrow that we can’t open anymore,” she said.
Dubeau said the customers, especially the older ones, miss the interaction they had with others at dine-ins, such as the breakfast they had Sundays after going to church.

“Our businesses are based on socializing, and no one is allowed to socialize, so between the escape room, the restaurant, the mini putt - everything is kind of on hold right now”
Waltham Station is also only open for takeout and deliveries. They have a small window open so customers can walk or drive up to place the order, and then a worker from the restaurant brings the food out to them.
For precautions, they sanitize the debit machine after every transaction and have stopped putting cash in their register to discourage transactions with it, all for the health of their customers and themselves.
According to owner Cobe Rabb, Waltham Station’s supplies were also affected. They cut down on shipments and shipment days are on a less regular schedule, since suppliers now might not have enough produce on certain days to fill out their trucks.
“I can put in an order on Tuesday and I’d normally get it on Wednesday. This time, I put in an order on Tuesday and they said ‘There might be a truck going by on Thursday, I’ll let you know,’” said Rabb.
Another local establishment who has started experiencing issues with their supplies is Billy T’s Pizza, in Shawville.
Brody Telford, who co-owns the pizza place, said it has become more difficult to bring in ingredients for his pizzas, especially in the protein department.
“The price of everything has increased,” he said. “The bacon is getting harder to get a hold of.”
Billy T’s is also doing take-out and delivery only and have removed delivery charges. They have not, however, changed their schedule.
Inside, Telford and his team are taking their time to wipe down surfaces and doors. They also have come up with a system of catering to the guests, like making sure they hand out the food before they receive the money every time and then sanitizing before they head back to the kitchen.

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