Restaurants are set to welcome customers back to their establishments on Friday after being shut down for dine-in services since April 8 as part of a provincewide stay-at-home order.
During the closure, St. Louis Bar and Grill owner Brad Watters used his time and resources to vastly improve the patio.
“We’ve taken advantage of our new space in our illustrious parking lot and turned it into a summer tiki oasis,” Watters said.
“That new area will be for people 19 years old and over, and it will be feature tropical drinks and it looks like a place that people will want to hang out it.”
The new tiki bar has 44 seats, which increases the restaurant's patio to 104 seats. The new patio features a stage for live music once the province allows it to resume.
“It’s going to be a great place to enjoy a drink, some food, and a good fun casual environment,” Watters said.
St. Louis Bar and Grill was able to tap into the Tourism Response Fund Grant in order to build the patio addition; they were granted $15,400.
“It was important to us to provide a new destination out in West Ridge. It was a nice grant that helped us build this,” Watters said.
While the County of Simcoe supplied the local restaurant with the funds, Watters says the whole project was a local team effort.
“The City of Orillia informed us that these grants are available, we used Tiki Escapes on Highway 11 to build it, and I think the Orillia community is going to really enjoy it,” he said.
“I’d rather open the restaurant for indoor dining, but to make the best of this situation, this is what we have to do. We have the opportunity in the next handful of weeks to provide a great environment where people will feel safe and have a lot of fun," said Watters.
“We want people to come celebrate summer here, let’s move on, let’s get back to a little reality, and this is the place to do it,” he said.
Customers were treated to a sneak peek of the new patio through social media over the last couple of weeks. Watters says all the feedback has been positive.
“I think any time as a bar owner or a franchisee you make an effort to make things better for your customers, people appreciate that. People stopped by when we were putting it up; people are really excited about it.”
St. Louis Bar and Grill is taking limited reservations this weekend; however, they hope to be able to accommodate everyone without any issue. Watters encourages customers to call ahead to gauge table availability.
Tammies Place has also done a complete patio makeover. The family restaurant has transitioned into a cabana-style bar.
“We are going to have a full-service bar surrounded by ten cabanas that are similar to the snow globes we had in the winter,” explained owner Tammy Grant.
“The cabanas will be individual seating areas that seat four people per table, and then in the centre we have eight more seating areas spaced apart with palm trees all around.”
The cabana bar is being constructed by Grant’s husband Chris and the restaurant owner is paying for it on her own dime.
“Even though we did not secure any government funding for this specific project, we would never be able to do this without the support of the community,” Grant said.
“They have been so supportive, and we have been very lucky with our take-out program. This town has supported all the local restaurants and stores during this pandemic, and it’s been amazing.”
Grant decided to pull the trigger on the cabana bar in an effort to offer Orillia a new dining experience this summer.
“We started looking for ideas to do something different. We have the parking lot space, and our domes went over really well in the winter,” Grant explained.
“People haven’t been able to travel since COVID hit, so wanted to bring the Caribbean to them here.”
Every Saturday the Mississaga Street restaurant will be partnering with Jjs Caribbean Cuisine in Barrie to provide authentic Jamaican food. The theme night will be a fundraiser where $5 from every meal will support various local charities.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun with all the palm trees, different foods, and atmosphere ... we think our customers are going to love it,” Grant said.
Grant feels that her recent innovative ways with her cabana bar and winter snow globes may be a part of the new normal that will help her restaurant sink or swim.
“Things like outdoor dining and takeout are key things that are going to stay around. In order to adapt, we had to offer something unique and different,” she said.
Grant encourages customers to call ahead of time to check availability for seating.
“We are limited to 20 tables, so breakfast and lunch will be walk-in only. Our new VIP rooftop patio will open every day at 11 and reservations for that are recommended, as well as dinner reservations for the cabanas, she said.
Tammies Place is not opening on Friday when the province enters Step One of the Roadmap to Reopen plan, but will open on Monday.