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Acton restaurants roll with the punches as red zone restrictions limit indoor dining.

Restaurants in town are feeling the brunt of the recently-enacted red zone restrictions. They are now limited to seating 10 customers at a time, with no more than four per table. “The new regulations are very strict for us,” said Chris Efstathopoulos owner of Olympic Restaurant in Acton. “There might be seven people inside the restaurant and another four show up and they cannot come in. There needs to be more flexibility. Allowing something like 10 people eating and room for another few waiting would help a lot—maybe 15 total. It's winter time now, you can't have people waiting outside,” he said. “Some people think the world revolves around the restaurant industry but the pandemic is affecting everybody. There are many people who don't have jobs, they don't have money to go out. We're all trying. Now we have to do specials to attract people. People are trying things like take-out and they're trying to find solutions. If people can find some new way of getting business, it's good thing.” Tommy Papakonstantinou, owner of Tommy's Grill and Bar, understands the frustration that some bar owners are experiencing. “I've had to turn away regular customers because we're only allowed to seat 10 people,” he said. Papakonstantinou is somewhat sympathetic towards Adam Skelly, the owner of Adamson's BBQ in Toronto, who was recently charged with violating indoor dining rules, among a slough of other charges. “He has a point, but you cannot be that unlawful,” said Papakonstantinou. “He's probably suffering a lot of economic crises; I don't know his situation, but he's not the only one. But it comes down to whether you value life more than money. Money you can make, life you cannot. Personally I value life more than anything.” The owner of another take-out restaurant did not want her real name used, but she has to deal with some of the same issues as other restauranteurs. Heretofore she is referred to as Ms Smith. “I make sure customers keep their distance, make sure there's no more than 10 people in the store, make sure they come in with their mask, and if the don't have it...that's like a really big problem. If someone has a problem [with wearing a mask] they don't have to give me proof. I lost a lot of customers because I asked them to have a mask on. Rules are rules but how can you force them?” The pandemic has also affected Smith's food deliveries and equipment repairs. “A lot of suppliers aren't delivering because they've had to lay off drivers. Most of the time I have to go get the supplies myself, and I had to wait over a month to get one of my machines fixed,” she said. As a restaurant reliant on take-out businesses, she's had mixed experiences with delivery services like Doordash and Uber Eats. “When I started with Doordash, they gave me some coupons that were expired. So I have customers coming back to me saying this didn't work, so it makes me look bad.” said Smith. For one thing, according to Smith, restaurants pay a 30% premium to these delivery services. So if a customer pays $10 for an order, the restaurant has to pay the service an additional $3.33. But the big problem is that Uber and Doordash don't seem to have enough drivers to service Acton. “I've had food sitting waiting for a driver for 20, 30 or even 40 minutes. What's the point in advertising if you don't have enough drivers?” asked Smith. “Covid is affecting our sales big time. But it's affecting everyone economically. We were planning on opening for over a year and we might not have done it if the second wave had come earlier. I am in a small town and it's okay for us because we're a take out business.” Lastly Smith pointed out, “I don't have seating, but if I did that would be a real problem,”.





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