Patio season in West Carleton

WEST CARLETON – With the great news restaurants and bars will be able to re-open outdoor service starting Friday, it’s finally patio season in West Carleton.

On June 8 the Ontario government announced Ottawa is one of many health unit regions (Renfrew and Lanark counties also made the list) eligible to move to Stage Two in the province’s recovery plan from the COVID-29 pandemic. West Carleton restaurants jumped at the opportunity to finally entertain guests at their respective places of business.

West Carleton Online has learned four area restaurants will open their patios this weekend.

The Ridge Rock Brewing Co. in Carp will open their patio tomorrow at noon after four days of working extremely hard to prepare.

“We’re really excited for this summer,” co-owner Ryan Grassie told West Carleton Online today (June 11). “It’s crazy how much work it’s been.”

For one, staff sealed all the picnic tables on the patio.

“It wasn’t a requirement,” Grassie said. “But wood is porous. We Varsolled them all so they are sealed and easier to clean thoroughly. I like it. I think they actually look better.”

They’ve trained staff under the new regulations and will be placing house rules on every table “to keep everyone safe and happy.”

Tables had to be readjusted so there is two metres of space between tables end to end.

“We even booked live music for Friday and Saturday if we’re allowed,” Grassie said. “The concern is the noise. If people have to yell to speak to each other that could be a transmission issue. Of course, our music will be acoustic but these are all the little nuances we have to figure out.”

Grassie says they won’t be taking reservations this weekend and is unsure how many people the Ridge Rock will be able to host on the patio yet.

“It will vary,” Grassie said. “If it’s a family from the same household they will be able to all sit at one table. But if it’s just a couple, that’s less people at the table.”

Grassie says it’s been a challenge to keep the Ridge Rock’s doors open through the pandemic, but there is light at the end of the tunnel – although Grassie still isn’t sure how much longer that tunnel is.

“We’re doing all right,” he said. “We’re coming out of the other side still in business which is nice.”

That wouldn’t have happened if the restaurant-brewery didn’t pivot quickly at the onset. Very soon after the doors shut due to the pandemic, the Ridge Rock launched a delivery service for its line of beers. The business has always been as much a brewery as it has been a restaurant and bar.

“We really found our groove with residential beer sales,” Grassie said. “We never did that before. It allowed us to survive this. If we were just a restaurant, we would not have survived this. We haven’t made money, but we were able to keep some people employed and pay the bills.”

Grassie says the Ridge Rock will continue to offer residential beer service even after things ‘return to normal.’

“We have regulars now, who even know our drivers by name,” he said. “We’re building up quite a loyal base.”

Grassie says Ridge Rock has delivered as far away as Vanier in the east and Renfrew in the west.

“Those are people that aren’t in Carp often,” he said. “Now maybe they’ll make the trip out. Anytime we can draw people out to Carp, it’s good for everybody.”

But the future is still foggy for the Ridge Rock and basically all restaurants following the pandemic. The food service business was tough to begin with and adding caps to how many people you can have in your establishment, while costs increase due to cleaning and precautions, makes it more difficult.

“It’s really difficult to be profitable during this,” Grassie said. “This weekend will show if it’s possible. It’s still hard to operate with these restrictions and be profitable.”

While the city recently announced some programs to assist the food service industry in their recovery, they don’t really apply to many rural restaurants.

“The removal of fees for patios doesn’t really apply to us,” Grassie said. “We have a private patio. We can’t really expand either as there’s no room.”

But time will tell and Grassie is excited to see forward progress for the industry as the province slowly comes out the other side of the pandemic.

“Step one is to get the patio open and step two will hopefully not be too far behind,” he said.

The Juke Joint Soul Kitchen in Carp will open this Friday (June 12) and can’t wait.

“We’re allowed to open our back and front patios this Friday,” owner Corri Greenberg released in a statement yesterday (June 10). “It’s a little quick and short notice, but we will be open and ready as we can. It may be a little rocky at first as we figure out what and how to do this new way of serving, so bear with us. Thanks everyone for the continued support and we hope this new level is a success to keep us going and open in these times.”

Greenberg says take-out will continue as well but take-out customers will be directed to the back of the restaurant to pick up their orders.

“Social distancing will be in place,” restaurant staff said.

The Cheshire Cat Pub will open their patio this weekend as well.

“We are cleaning and setting up and getting ready for the weekend,” Dustin Therrien released in a statement yesterday.

Back in Carp, The Swan at Carp will also be opening their patio starting tomorrow. The long-running pub’s patio will be open from noon to 8 p.m. (“hooray”) starting Friday. The restaurant recommends customers make reservations before dropping by.

That is probably good advice for all West Carleton patios. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, seating will be limited as patios must still adhere to physical distancing guidelines and will have reduced seating options. Also expect servers to be wearing face coverings.

We have reached out to Alice’s Village Café to inquire about their patios, but as of publication have not heard back yet. We will update this story as more news becomes available.