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Opening a restaurant in the time of COVID

Opening a restaurant in the time of COVID

Just over two years after friends Scarlet Osborne and Heidi Murphy decided to team up to create a unique food and drink venue, they are preparing to open their doors. Most restaurants face a variety of challenges in starting up; these partners had obstacles created by the COVID-19 situation added to their plates, as they prepared to offer “Pacific Rim fusion” food.
While they are looking to open for business as soon as possible, the two anticipate that their El Segundo restaurant will be operational as of late July. Located at the Trail and Cowrie corner of the Trail Bay Mall, the eatery will have a seating capacity of over 100 on its main floor, outdoor patio and second floor intimate dining space. If it were to open amid the physical distancing restrictions in place in mid-July, that capacity would be reduced by about 50 per cent. That may be different by opening day. Osbourne and Murphy have had to become ‘pros’ at adjusting their plans due to the changing rules for hospitality businesses around COVID-19. Murphy noted that restaurant industry personnel are well versed in keeping patrons safe, which is even more important in today’s world.
When asked what would make their restaurant stand out in the local marketplace, Osborne said “almost everything about El Segundo will be different”. In her view, the menu, artwork, concept and service level will be at a top tier level for the Coast. The venue will feature a hand-picked selection of classic cocktails, non-alcoholic drinks, beers from the Coast and Lower Mainland as well as location-exclusive specialties crafted by Jason Laidlaw, who is a partner in the business and head bartender at the award-winning Shameful Tiki Bar in Vancouver.
Plans are to open six days per week for both lunch and dinner, and eventually expand to seven days per week service. The location is licenced to serve liquor until midnight. It will likely be closing at 10 or 11pm during its first months of operation. Murphy said that one of her goals in starting the business was to bring “late night energy” to downtown Sechelt.
“With fewer people opting to go away to Mexico for vacation this year, we want them to be able to treat themselves to the holiday feel when they go out to eat locally,” said Osbourne.
Osborne and Murphy are thankful for the support they have received from the community in launching their venture. Their positive shout-out list is extensive, featuring many of the contractors that worked on the site renovation and the Trail Bay Mall itself. Mall spokesperson Paul Meyer is excited to see both El Segundo, and the new “22 Taps” lounge located at the former Gilligan’s site, opening in the near future.
Meyer noted that outdoor patio dining space has been added at the existing Saffron Restaurant at the mall to help seat more clientele while respecting distancing protocols. The mall’s indoor informal seating and dining furniture has been taken out of service. It will be put back when management is advised by health authorities that it is safe to do so. Meyer said the Sechelt Downtown Business Association’s general use patio idea for Cowrie Street could be a positive development for mall merchants. He said that providing amenities that allow visitors and local shoppers to enjoy more time in the downtown core helps all area businesses.
Connie Jordison

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