Restrictions ease as seasons shift, creating a perfect storm of cathartic outdoor fun

By Joe Boulet

Spring is looking promising for bars and restaurants after the province’s most recent restrictions deemed patios free of the same household-only rule.

Chris Graves, owner of the King’s Head Pub, said his restaurant is still losing money, but the lightened restrictions make a difference.

“I made a joke about a week and a half ago – it was a Saturday and I said, ‘Holy shit, we actually almost broke even today.’”

The province ruled that patios are allowed up to six people per table from any household on March 12.

People starved of social interaction are flocking to patios with little care for conditions and temperature, Graves said. 

King’s Head patio awaiting customers early in the afternoon on March 31./JOE BOULET

 “I had a table sitting out there when it was zero degrees out,” he said.

Paige Morrow, the manager of Wasabi on Broadway, said they are expanding their patio because of the new restrictions.

“We’ll have 122 more seats for the summer,” Morrow said.

The city is making it easier on bars and restaurants by waiving the $500 fee to open a temporary patio for the second year in a row.

City council confirmed the motion to waive the fee in a March 25 meeting after receiving public backlash for charging restaurants to open patios while in-person dining is restricted.

Morrow felt it was a gratuitous slap after the financially rough year bars and restaurants had. 

“The restaurant industry is already suffering so much,” Morrow said. “Now you’re going to charge them to make money?” 

King’s Head, Wasabi, and other restaurants endured a four-month takeout-only period that left downtown without the robust food and drink scene that normally draws in Winnipeg’s socialites.

Red River College moving online means there’s less students in the area looking to indulge at King’s Head during a break from school.

“It’s crazy how much we’ve missed the business from RRC students,” Graves said. “We don’t sell nearly as many chicken fingers and fries or Obamas as we used to.”

Students have spent most of the year doing their schooling online without being able to go to bars and restaurants to decompress.

RRC Electrical student Pearse Miller has been going to patios since the week they opened. King’s Head was one of the first he returned to.

“Having a patio beer after being inside all year feels like the antidote to a deadly disease,” Miller said.

The province will reevaluate current restrictions after the Easter weekend.