Coronavirus: Kingston, Ont., retail stores reopen doors to customers

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WATCH: Tuesday marked the first day that some Ontario businesses could open their doors after two months of no storefront traffic. – May 19, 2020

The streets of downtown Kingston, Ont., were filled with shoppers on Tuesday, the first day retail stores could open their doors to customers.

Last week, the province announced retail stores outside shopping malls, which have their own entrances and can follow physical distancing measures, were allowed to open after the May long weekend.

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It was a day for which many downtown Kingston store owners had been waiting for two months.

“People are so ready to come out and see other people and shop and touch the merchandise,” said Maria Cronk, the owner of Fancy That.

Cronk and her family have been running eastern Ontario clothing and shoe stores for 35 years. Over that time, Cronk says she had never experienced a time that she wasn’t involved in the day-to-day activity of the store until she was forced to close in March due to COVID-19, prompting the layoff of 14 staff members.

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“One day we were open, the next closed,” said Cronk.

“It’s all this social distancing that’s going be hard. I can only allow maybe five people in my store.”

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Unlike retail stores, restaurants are not welcoming dine-in customers yet. The province announced on Tuesday that it is extending all emergency orders until May 29, including the closure of bars and restaurants.

One Kingston bar owner says the two-plus-month closure has forced him to close for good.

“We just don’t have deep pockets, and we were looking for a buyer earlier in the year, but this was just too much. We decided, once we were forced to close, that this was it,” said Bruce Davis, the owner of The Alibi.

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The small downtown bar at the corner of Princess and Clergy streets has been a popular hangout for Kingstonains for four years. An intimate experience that Davis says would be tarnished by the restrictions even if he had the finances to re-open when allowed.

“The Alibi is a place you pack into a crowded bar in a booth, you’re there for trivia night, it’s busy, it’s crowded, it’s bustling, it’s fun where you sit at the bar, and when you talk to people under the new rules, under the new distancing rules, that’s going to be really hard,” said Davis via Skype from Toronto.

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Just down the street, another Kingston business is adjusting to the new rules.

Mio Gelato has renovated the shop to reflect that of a grocery store. Large plexiglass shields separate the customer from the employee, and there are markers on the floor that separate everyone by two metres.

“We are only open for in-store purchases on Fridays, Saturdays and Sunday,” said Erin Allen, the manager of Mio Gelato.

While many businesses returned to some form of normalcy on Tuesday, the province is still advising residents to continue working from home if possible.

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The provincial government did not provide any further specifics on when Ontarians would enter into the next phase.

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