Centre, Peter Moore welcomes guests Tom and Bill. DON RICKERS

The smart investor would have done well to sink big bucks into plexiglass manufacture stocks back in February.

Once the pandemic hit, it seemed like every business that hadn’t shut its doors was installing plexiglass acrylic barriers, to separate staff from customers at the cash register or service desk. Now that Stage 3 reopening is in play throughout Niagara, we’re seeing even more clear plastic barriers, this time attached to indoor dining booths to provide an extra layer of safety from airborne viruses.

Catherine Lafreniere, who runs the Pelham Street Grille along with her husband, George, has removed most of their standalone tables inside the restaurant, and has attached plexiglass to all of their booths. They can now accommodate about 30 diners inside, with another eight tables on the back patio. After months of doing curbside takeout, the restaurant is back to its regular menu and hours.

New plexiglass booth dividers at the Pelham Street Grille. SUPPLIED

For added protection, Lafreniere is asking all customers to wear a mask when entering the restaurant (careful of the plexiglass shield at the front counter!), and those waiting for a free table will need to queue up outside. Washrooms are sanitized after every usage. All servers will be wearing a mask on the job, and when reporting for work they will undergo screening involving standard COVID-related health questions. They will also have their temperature taken to determine if they have a fever.

Lafreniere noted that the Grille has developed a loyal following over the years, and business has been good, all things considered.

We’re doing everything we can to make it safe for our customers and staff

“We’re doing everything we can to make it safe for our customers and staff,” she said.

Peter Piper’s Pubhouse, on Highway 20, is down to 45% capacity with social distancing in place, said proprietor Peter Moore. He can accommodate 44 patrons inside, and a maximum of 24 on his patio out front. Tables inside are six feet apart, and all the booths have been adorned with —wait for it— plexiglass.

The bar has been closed off temporarily, to discourage mingling.

“We used to have a pretty relaxed policy here…you walked in and seated yourself,” said Moore. “Now, it’s ‘Please wait to be seated.’”

He stressed that tables are being sanitized between sittings, and that “some of our new chemical cleaners take a couple minutes to sit wet so that they can disinfect properly.”

Cooks and servers are wearing masks and all times at Peter Piper’s. “We’re asking our guests to please respect others by wearing a mask,” said Moore. “If someone comes in without a mask, I’m not going to kick them out…but we’re going to make sure that they’ve got six feet of separation.”

Moore has just expanded his hours, but won’t be open after 9 PM, in part because he thinks some patrons may begin to take liberties with social distancing guidelines after they’ve had a few.

“I don’t want to have to play sheriff at that point,” said Moore.

Peter Piper’s Pubhouse is open 12 noon to 9 PM every day, with the except of Sunday, when closing is at 8 PM.

As to the future, Moore’s mood is one of cautious optimism. He has watched COVID infection numbers in Niagara on their up-and-down coaster ride.

“We’ll roll with it, and if things get worse, maybe the government will give us another round of support,” said Moore.

Over in Fenwick, the Grill on Canboro is gussying up the restaurant with, what else, plexiglass barriers on its booths as well. Denise, a server at the eatery, said that they have seating for 60 inside, and another dozen on the patio. All staff are wearing masks, and are encouraging diners to do the same. They are open Wednesday through Saturday 9 AM to 7 PM, and Sunday 9 AM – 3 PM.

As of Friday, July 31, it became the law that facial coverings be worn when using indoor spaces (including retail and food stores) and public transit. The bylaw will be in place until October 1, and could be extended beyond that time. All businesses are expected to have a policy regarding the use of masks, and have the option to refuse entry to anyone without a facial covering.