The COVID restrictions have damaged the businesses of many small entrepreneurs that had just started to recover from the previous lockdown. Restaurants were ordered to close completely across the province of Ontario. They are only allowed to provide takeout and delivery; they have lost their patio dining privileges gained only two weeks earlier.
Ontario entered a month-long providence-wide shutdown on Saturday, April 3rd. Premier Doug Ford announced that he is “pulling the emergency brake” due to the rise of COVID-19 cases.
Indoor bars, cafes, gyms, hair salons, and barbershops were forced to close. Even so, provincial data shows that these struggling businesses and outdoor gatherings are not the main cause of the rising cases. Personal care services have been closed since the fall, and they had the promise that they would be allowed to reopen on April 12th. The promise has been nullified with the emergency brake restrictions.
Restaurants, gyms, and hair salons have been closes for 300, 293, and 221 total days. These establishments have been the most affected since the start, and they continue to suffer from the uncertainty of new restrictions being applied every day.
Despite numerous outbreak reports from meatpacking plants and Amazon facilities, these operations continue to be deemed essential and haven’t been submitted to restrictions.
According to CTV News Toronto, Ontario’s cabinet is discussing a stay-at-home order. This is after a request was made by three of the providence’s top doctors. It is not clear yet whether it would be issued providence-wide or would go into effect regionally.
Ford has stated that other restrictions are coming soon: “We’re going to have further restrictions moving forward very, very quickly.”
Yesterday, Toronto schools were ordered to close from April 7th through April 18th. Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa used her powers under Section 22 of the Health Protection and Promotion Act to close schools.
Peter Girges, the owner of MARBL Restaurant in downtown Toronto, has given HOLR Magazine some insight into how the situation has affected his business.
How would more lockdown restrictions affect your establishment?
I don’t even want to imagine how much more financially it’s going to cost me because I’ve had to deal with the last 6 months of being closed. When they closed indoor dining, I decided to close the restaurant entirely because I didn’t want to serve outdoors during the cold winter months. The financial part for me is one thing, but the other detrimental aspect of all of this has been for my staff. They just want to get back to work and they need to make money. How are they supposed to live off of $2000 CERB each month when their monthly cost of living is significantly more than that?
What are some last-minute measures and arrangements you’ve had to make due to the uncertainty of the restrictions?
A lot of the regulations that have come out, we’ve just had to adapt and go with our instincts. So on this third attempt to reopen, we’ve invested in so much plexiglass for outdoor tables, purchased more tables and chairs to fill alleys and sidewalks, huge costs towards propane tanks, heat lamps, heaters — and then, of course, the cost of purchasing all of the food (about $13,000), as we expected to open on April 2nd. They didn’t announce this lockdown until the 1st, giving us two days’ notice. So it’s been extremely tough with all of this back-and-forth and uncertainty.
How has the stigma towards restaurants being COVID spreaders affected you?
The breath of fresh air is that finally today, a lot of media sources are reporting that COVID isn’t being spread in restaurants, gyms, barbershops/salons, and other small businesses that are being targeted by the lockdowns. That has definitely given us some hope. These small businesses have implemented some of the highest levels of protocol and restrictions to meet Public Health standards. Temperature control, contact tracing, social distancing, plexiglass throughout the facilities, all of the staff are equipped with PPE and following numerous other measures to keep our team and guests safe.
Costco, Walmart, and grocery stores…they haven’t had to, nor are they implementing temperature checks or contact tracing. It’s also highly unlikely for them to guarantee these big box stores are being properly sanitized between customers. So it’s just pretty crazy that we’ve created safe environments and have been come down on the hardest — it’s all at the expense of us small business owners. It’s not cheap. It has cost upwards of $10,000 – $15,000 to get the basics so we can operate and within a matter of a day or two, our livelihood is ripped from us once again.