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Waterloo officials unconcerned about potential influx of GTHA residents when Phase 2 begins

The Walper Hotel can be seen on King Street in downtown Kitchener.
The Walper Hotel can be seen on King Street in downtown Kitchener. Ahmed Fareed Khan / Global News

Waterloo Region officials say they are not overly concerned by a potential influx of visitors to the area from Toronto and other municipalities who are not entering Phase 2 of the province’s recovery coronavirus pandemic recovery plan on Friday.

Patios at bars and restaurants in Waterloo Region will be permitted to open on Friday as will a host of personal service options including barbershops, beauty and hair salons and estheticians.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: What you can and cannot do in Ontario amid Stage 2 of reopening

Meanwhile, some major nearby centres including Toronto, Brampton, Mississauga and Hamilton will see those types of establishments remain shuttered for the near future.

Waterloo Region CAO Mike Murray says that it really would not be worthwhile for most people in those communities to make the trek to our neck of the woods.

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“I think the practical reality is with the guidelines in place, that capacity is going to be quite limited,” he said. “If you look around Waterloo region and think about how many spots to sit at an outdoor patio exist. It’s relatively limited.”

Murray says that even area residents should expect to see lineups at such places even if there is not an influx of visitors from other communities.

“I think that is just going to be a practical limitation on people in other places coming,” he explained. “They may come, but there may be long lineups to get a seat at an outdoor patio.”

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Given that long lines will likely be made longer by distancing measures, Murray says local enforcement officials will be in place to make sure they are followed.

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Murray says the region is still awaiting guidance from the province on how the patios will need to be set up but that locally, area governments have looked at ways to clear red tape for restaurants to get approval for patios.

READ MORE: Ontario reopening Stage 2: Groups of 10 allowed, places of worship to reopen amid coronavirus pandemic

He says that the municipalities and region have established a point person for those seeking approval.

“This is to make sure that no business owners gets bogged down in ping-ponging back and forth between the region and the area municipalities, or ping pong back and forth between program areas within a municipality,” Murray said.

As for other personal service options, Murray says he would be surprised if local customers were not the first to be offered appointments from Waterloo Region businesses.

‘They’ll have to decide who gets an appointment,” he explained. “I would speculate that their regular customers will get, you know, first appointments.”