Br. John Frampton and the Capuchins will be re-opening St. Francis Table to guests again on Sept. 1. Photo by Michael Swan

St. Francis Table doors to open again Sept. 1

  • August 15, 2021

Dollar-a-meal lunches and suppers are back on at St. Francis Table in Toronto’s Parkdale neighbourhood come Sept. 1, when there will be fully vaccinated cooks and wait staff ready to serve up meals to sit-down customers inside the restaurant.

The decision to demand volunteers and staff be fully vaccinated wasn’t hard, said St. Francis Table’s animator, Capuchin Br. John Frampton.

“I told them (volunteers) that we’re supposed to be a safe environment. If we’re not going to be safe, so much for the environment,” Frampton said. “I just said, out of concern for one another, for ourselves and one another….”

One or two of the regular volunteers are not vaccinated, but Frampton is standing firm.

In pre-COVID times 60 to 65 per cent of the meal servings were staffed by high schools, who bring students down to the Franciscan apostolate for an experience of service. When Frampton found out Ontario’s school re-opening plan would allow for field trips, he was confident he would have a volunteer workforce lined up so the doors would stay open.

Toronto’s De La Salle College booked in a dozen classes for volunteer experiences on the first day after the school re-opening guidelines were released. Frampton expects more phone calls from school vice principals and teachers.

The two-dose-or-no-go rule for volunteers has been communicated to schools, but it’s up to schools how they handle the possibility of unvaccinated students venturing out on field trips, Frampton said.

An informal survey of St. Francis Table regulars found that 90 per cent of the patrons are vaccinated. The high vaccination rate is not surprising given that Toronto Public Health has run a handful of vaccination clinics through spring and summer next door to the Capuchins’ restaurant in the St. Clare Centre.

Since the first shutdown in March of 2020, St. Francis Table has been open and busy, serving up take-out meals. A two-week shutdown now, before the Sept. 1 re-opening, will allow the staff and volunteers to get ready for indoor dining again.

Frampton looks forward to patrons sitting down to meals inside the restaurant.

“To get rid of the styrofoam and plastic, I hope, and bring out the real dishes — it’s exciting times,” he said.

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