The Forks Market reopens — quietly — just in time for May long weekend

By | May 15, 2020

For the first time in two months, the sounds of sizzling grills and gurgling beer taps can be heard inside The Forks Market.

The popular Winnipeg gathering place opened again to the public on Friday.

“We’re doing so cautiously but optimistically, and with a great degree of safety in mind,” said Forks spokesperson Claire MacKay.

“We’re hoping that everybody respects the distancing rules that are in place and uses the hand sanitizer and that we can keep progressing,” she said, adding “I am thrilled to see people again.”

Some businesses at The Forks opened on Friday, including the outdoor patio for The Common. (Lyzaville Sale/CBC)

The Forks Market announced on March 17 that it was closing until further notice as part of the efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19. 

The buildings were locked but the grounds and trails at the national historic site remained open.

MacKay said some changes have been made to help with physical distancing, such as only having two entrances to the market open, in order to keep track of the number of people inside. As well, sanitizing stations are set up at the entrances.

No indoor seating is allowed for meals, but food purchased in the food court can be eaten outside. Takeout containers will be available, along with reusable plates.

The Common is serving beer and wine, which can also be taken outdoors.

Seating inside the market is still not being allowed. (Lyzaville Sale/CBC)

While the market is open, it won’t be the bustling atmosphere people are used to for now. Only about 40 per cent of the food vendors are ready to serve the public again, while about 25 per cent of the retailers are open.

The opening was presented to Forks tenants “as an ‘open if you would like to [but] if you’re not comfortable right now, if you don’t have staff, if you don’t have a supply, it’s entirely optional,'” MacKay said.

“In areas specifically where we don’t have anyone open right now, we are blocking that area off.”‘

WATCH | People cheer the reopening at The Forks Market:

The Forks Market welcomed visitors on Friday for the first time in months. 0:37

When the market closed, The Forks also stopped charging its tenants rent, the reduce the hardship from the loss of business.

“And we won’t be going back to our traditional rent structure for the time being, either,” MacKay said. “We wanted to make sure that our tenants had a really great chance of surviving.”

The Forks didn’t advertise or announce Friday’s opening in any way because it wanted a manageable amount of foot traffic.

“It’s been slow, which is actually what we were hoping for as people find out that the market is open,” MacKay said Friday afternoon.

“We’ve seen people sort of wander around the corner or realize it’s open and stop for a beer, which is great. People have been very respectful and very aware of their surroundings. It’s been a really nice start.”

Hand sanitizing stations are set up the two entrances to The Forks Market. (Lyzaville Sale/CBC)

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