Local restaurant owners feel the Province's updated COVID-19 guidelines missed the mark, according to Stephanie Harris, economic development officer for SEED.

Harris says she's had a chance to gather some feedback from the business community in Altona and Municipality of Rhineland since Premier Brian Pallister announced capacity limits for restaurants, bars, beverage rooms, brewpubs, microbreweries, and distilleries would be lifted under Phase Three of government's economic recovery plan, as long as tables and seating are arranged so there is a temporary or physical barrier or two metres of separation between people sitting at different tables.

"They have said that at this point maintaining the two-metre distancing rule between tables doesn't really change anything for them, so they're still having to run at fifty per cent capacity," explained Harris, "the only thing is that if there are large groups of people they can all sit together at one table, however, they just have to maintain that two-metre distancing rule from neighbouring tables."

Thanks to strong local support, Harris says the local foodservice industry has done fairly well during the pandemic, noting most continue with take-out and delivery while others have added delivery to their service menu and plan to continue with that option moving forward.

As well, SEED launched a four-point COVID-19 recovery plan to protect the local economy and to help local entrepreneurs return to business in a sustainable and safe manner.

According to Harris, the Take Out to Help Out promotion was a huge success with ten businesses enrolling for a financial allotment that offered customers $10 off every take-out order over $30. She says nearly all of the registered restaurants reached the 60 customer limit.

However, Harris noted the initial uptake has been a bit slower for some of the other offerings under the recovery plan, which includes access to a free consultation with an accountant to assist with existing government support programs, access to a free consultation with a marketing professional so businesses can promote the safety measures they're taking, as well as SEED grants for recovery support and safety measures.

"But I also think that's a good sign that our businesses are starting to bounce back," added Harris.

Meantime, some border communities have expressed economic concerns with the on-going suspension of non-essential travel between Canada and the United States. However, Harris says that doesn't appear to be the case for businesses in Altona and Rhineland, noting she's heard the closure has actually been a good thing for the local economy.

"It's keeping people out of Cavalier, Grand Forks, and Fargo, and from going across the border to pick up parcels from online shopping as well as fuelling up their vehicles. So I think this is actually encouraging people to shop local again," she said.

In fact, Harris believes the spin-offs from this shop local resurgence outweigh the benefits of having nearby American customers cross the border to shop here.