For the first years of owning Del Rios restaurant in Winkler, Dave Fehr was the first to unlock the doors in the morning and the last one to lock up at night. Sixteen-to-eighteen-hour days were part of his investment into a restaurant that is closed for dine-in business today.

Fehr says he loves his restaurant, his staff, his community and his customers.

"Just great. Thankful, happy, respectful. Just a great customer base in Winkler," he said. "And not just Winkler, we have customers from Steinbach, from Portage, from Winnipeg and all over, and just great people."

But all of that changed as Public Health orders evolved to require mask-use and proof of COVID-19 vaccination in order to dine-in.

"We're now caught in the middle," said Fehr. "We do have young staff, and now we are required to put a 15-year-old hostess at the door and deal with this, which we don't think that is fair. (It's) just not right for a young girl to deal with this and go home and cry, because we have had incidents where customers walk in and the staff ask nicely, 'Could you please put on a mask?' They (the customers) start swearing and yelling at them (the staff)," added Fehr. "That's painful for us to see because we don't look at our staff as staff, we're just a family working together."

Fehr noted the restaurant business is one that has always been regulated by health inspectors for cleanliness, and he said that is a good thing to keep restaurants on their toes. But, with the current public health orders causing division among customers, he says this has put stress on his staff.

An incident in his restaurant led to Fehr making the decision to open his restaurant for everyone who wants to eat there, including unvaccinated patrons.

The restaurant has since been fined $5,000 for not following the Public Health Orders.

"I don't want anybody's pity or anything. (I'm) not going to blame anything that I did it for a certain reason," added Fehr. "Just we figured, personally, we should keep on working, and earn our living, instead of asking for freebies. That's not who I am. That's not how my parents raised me. You work for what you have and what you want."

Fehr offered this message to the community.

"I would like to see unity," he said. "I have respect for both sides, vaccinated/unvaccinated. I have no problem with either side. I would just like to have unity, and come in as friends and enjoy a peaceful meal, and start laughing again, which we haven't done in the last eighteen months. That's important to start having fun again. That's what I would like to see. Unity, that's the main thing."

Written by Pembinavalleyonline.