Stone Road Mall in Guelph will open its doors on Friday as part of stage two of the Ontario government’s reopening plan amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The province announced on Monday that Guelph and Wellington and Dufferin counties could enter into stage two, which includes opening malls.
Essential tenants at Stone Road Mall have remained open during the state of emergency and storefronts recently reopened as well as the province eased restrictions.
“Beginning Friday, the non-essential tenants will be allowed to reopen and we’re anxiously awaiting Friday morning so we can open the doors for them,” general manager Kevin Knight said.
The mall will have reduced hours — from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.
There will be signs posted around the mall to promote physical distancing and to direct people through one-way doors at the entrances.
Some urinals, stalls and sinks will be blocked off in the washrooms, hand sanitizer dispensers will be installed around the mall, and some seating has been removed or reorganized.
“As far as trying to police the public once they’re inside the building when it comes to distancing, that’s not really something we can do,” Knight said. “It’s a very big building, it’s almost half a million square feet and there is only so much you can do.”
He said he hopes any issues or concerns can be addressed quickly with a conversation between staff and guests.
All of the mall’s doors will be open and while customers won’t have to line up outside, Knight said they might have to line up outside each store in the mall to maintain physical distancing within those shops.
Tenants have been told that lines cannot interfere with other stores and free passage through the common areas.
“It’s going to be difficult to manage. We’re in unknown territory here,” Knight said, noting that some stores may have to turn customers away or to schedule appointments.
Masks and gloves are not mandatory for customers and staff, but they will be made available to workers. Sneeze guards have been installed at places where staff interact with customers, such as the customer service desk.
The food court is still closed due to ongoing renovations, but other restaurants are providing takeout. Those restaurants won’t be able to set up outdoor seating, but Starbucks and Beertown in the parking lot have outdoor patios.
Knight is strongly encouraging people to use the mall just for “purposeful shopping” and not to hang around.
“If you need to come and shop, of course, you’re more than welcome, we cannot wait to have folks back,” he said. “Right now, it’s probably not the time to socialize here.”