September 28, 2020

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A question of perspective

Photos, public perceptions don't tell whole story, restaurateur says

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Chaise Corydon’s patio sits empty Sunday, with tables apparently spaced two metres apart, as set out in the province’s reopening strategy.</p>

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Chaise Corydon’s patio sits empty Sunday, with tables apparently spaced two metres apart, as set out in the province’s reopening strategy.

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As people are inundated with new information and rules regarding public health and social distancing, different perspectives on what is and isn’t allowed are emerging — and clashing.

Several pictures showing a crowded patio at Chaise Corydon were posted on Facebook over the weekend. In the pictures, people are standing shoulder to shoulder — there doesn’t seem to be any two-metre distancing.

A man, who doesn’t want to be named, walked past the Corydon Avenue restaurant at 1:45 a.m. on Saturday, the same time the photos were taken. The man said Chaise Corydon was the only restaurant not reasonably following public health regulations.

"There (was) nobody sitting down, no 6 feet apart. It’s a mass of humanity," he said.

Currently, the province doesn’t have an occupancy limit for restaurants, but they must implement measures that ensure people can stay at least two metres away from one another.

Chaise Corydon has been issued two tickets for not obeying COVID-19 related public health measures — one in June, and one in July. Shea Ritchie, the restaurant’s owner, maintains that his business is following the rules. The pictures that surfaced on Facebook show three different patios, he said.

Facebook</p><p>A passerby suggested on social media Chaise Corydon wasn’t socially distancing guests, but owner Shea Ritchie said each group was together and separated from other groups.</p>

Facebook

A passerby suggested on social media Chaise Corydon wasn’t socially distancing guests, but owner Shea Ritchie said each group was together and separated from other groups.

"You’re not getting an aerial view, you’re getting a horizontal view," Ritchie said. "You’re getting three different patios, and you’re getting anyone who’s on the sidewalk or in line outside."

Ritchie said people don’t need to space two metres apart from folks in the group they came with. Separate groups are supposed to keep a two-metre distance from one another; Chaise Corydon has made sure this is possible by keeping tables and chairs two metres away from other sets, Ritchie said.

The onus isn’t on restaurant staff to stop people from intermingling, he said.

"It’s not up to us to police that," he said. "We have to provide space between different groups. If people want space, they have it. But if people want to go out and hug a friend and fist bump, that’s their own personal choice and degree of comfort."

Ritchie said he doesn’t know if he can legally stop patrons from interacting with one another if they choose to do so.

"If I were to go up to someone and say, ‘Hey, why are you talking to them? You shouldn’t be talking to them,’ that’s got human rights violation all over it," Ritchie said. "What grounds am I going to use to start saying that people shouldn’t be talking to other people — they don’t look like they belong with them?"

Chaise Corydon doesn’t allow people beyond its capacity, Ritchie said, adding that six security guards monitor the restaurant’s capacity at night. Each outdoor patio has at least two security guards. If they see things getting out of hand, they’re allowed to shut down bar service and close down their section.

'We have to provide space between different groups. If people want space, they have it. But if people want to go out and hug a friend and fist bump, that's their own personal choice and degree of comfort'‐ Chaise Corydon owner Shea Ritchie

The restaurant will reach full capacity — 250 people — at times, but often that’s because of group bookings, Ritchie said. He hasn’t laid off any staff for pandemic-related reasons because his restaurant has been busy.

Ritchie said he’s received complaints that he’s broken rules that aren’t actually rules. People have berated Chaise Corydon because patrons aren’t wearing masks, but right now, the province doesn’t require that people visiting restaurants wear masks.

"We’ve never wanted to break any of the rules," Ritchie said, adding that if the province were to roll back current regulations, his restaurant would comply.

James Torrance said he’s visited the restaurant strip on Corydon Avenue on several evenings. He bikes through the area bi-weekly.

"Pretty well every patio I’ve gone to, they’ve had safeguards," Torrance said. "They’re at capacity but they have their distancing, the hand sanitizer, wearing masks... They’ve been fine."

Torrance said he’s never seen Chaise Corydon overbooked.

gabrielle.piche@freepress.mb.ca

Gabrielle Piché

Gabrielle Piché
Community journalist — The Headliner

Gabrielle Piché is the community journalist for The Headliner. Email her at gabrielle.piche@canstarnews.com

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