The move to Stage 3 of Ontario’s reopening plan in most of the province is a potential glimmer of hope for business owners in the Kingston service industry, who have had to close or pare down operations due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
In Stage 3, which starts this Friday at midnight, gathering limits will increase to a maximum of 50 people when indoors and a maximum of 100 outdoors.
The government said individuals will still be required to maintain physical distancing with people from outside of their social circle, which remains at capped at 10 people.
Bruce Clark, owner of Kirkpatrick’s and The Toucan, a well-known pub in the downtown core, says opening up indoor dining could play a role in turning the business’s summer around.
“With both patios — we’ve got a fairly big one out front now — and the other patio and the inside, we will, I would think, be able to break even,” Clark said.
Looking forward, Clark expressed concerns about cooler weather when patios won’t be an option for his industry.
“I don’t know what’ll happen this winter, but I expect to see more places in trouble,” he said.
The unanswered question is, when indoor dining opens, will people come?
Karen Cross, CEO of the Greater Kingston Chamber of Commerce, says her organization and its 680 member businesses are watching to see what consumer reaction will be.
“Is the consumer going to come back and shop? Is the consumer going to come back and dine since we’re opening restaurants now? Are they going to have the confidence to do that?” she asked.
But consumer confidence won’t play a role in Landmark Cinemas’ decision to open in Kingston.
Bill Walker, Landmark Cinemas CEO, says it’s not viable with the current Stage 3 restrictions to open the company’s doors.
“You really can’t open a 10-screen theatre like we have in Kingston for 50 guests. While we would like to, it’s just not economic; there’s just no practical way for us to do that.”
Walker says the company is lobbying and talking to the provincial government to have the 50-person cap changed.
“In other provinces — British Columbia, Alberta, in particular — we have an occupancy cap, but it’s per auditorium.”
Walker says he’s optimistic that the changes will happen but doesn’t have a timeline as to when.
— With files from Global News’ Ryan Rocca