LONDON, ONT. -- Restaurants and bars in the London region are getting a lifeline of sorts, after the province announced plans to allow patio dining.

It’s music to the ears of restaurateurs across London and Middlesex, many who have been scraping by with just take-out business.

Mark McGonigle, who manages Fitzrays Restaurant and Bar in downtown London, hung on every word as the Premier Doug Ford announced the latest measures Monday.

“Today’s announcement gives hope to everyone,” said McGonigle. “It allows some people to come back to work. All these patios that no one has been able to sit on...people drive by in frustration I’m sure. This is hopeful to everyone.”

The move takes effect as of Friday, and is part of the province’s second stage or reopening, as restrictions are scaled back in most areas outside the GTA.

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario has also given establishments the green light to extend outdoor patios, depending on municipal regulations.

London Mayor Ed Holder hinted that good news on that front is coming soon, “I would imagine you are going to have some positive direction going in that way in the short time to come.”

Patrons can expect a somewhat different experience for patio dining. For one, the province says masks and gloves will be in use. Further, you’ll need to make a reservation, rather than just showing up.

At Coffee Culture on Dundas Place in downtown London, owner Shane Kenneth was just getting his sidewalk patio set up when the announcement came down. He’s still unclear on a number of issues.

“Part and parcel of having this patio is do we have bathrooms now. You know, how do we look after the bathrooms. Do we allow one person to go in and do we sanitize it.”

Middlesex-London Health Unit Medical Officer of Health Dr. Chris Mackie said establishments will be expected to follow physical distancing protocols on patios. However, he did stress that outdoor activity, like enjoying a restaurant patio, is far less of a risk than indoors.

“There’s lots and lots of data now that outdoors it’s very difficult to spread the coronavirus. It’s certainly possible. There have been small outbreaks associated with outdoor events. But in general the movement of air outdoors disperses the droplets very quickly.”