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A number of Durham businesses restricting entry to area residents only

Click to play video 'Durham business owners restricting lockdown zone visitors' Durham business owners restricting lockdown zone visitors
A number of businesses in Durham are screening customers from other regions. Owners say they are not allowing anyone from lockdown zones into their establishments. Frazer Snowdon reports – Nov 26, 2020

With neighbouring regions under lockdown in an effort to curb surging COVID-19 cases, a number of businesses in the Durham region are limiting service to local customers only.

It’s a move the owner of Shrimp Cocktail, Wanda Nippard felt she had to make.

“I feel like if we allow them to come out into our region, we’re adding to the situation out there,” she says.

Read more: Ontario puts Toronto, Peel into lockdown; curbside retail, restaurants move to takeout only

Ever since the announcement that much of the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area was to be put in lockdown, Nippard says she was fielding calls from all over the GTHA. She realized it was going to be a problem and is now screening everyone who wants to reserve a table at her restaurant.

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“If people call for reservations, we are notifying them right away if you’re from out of the region we aren’t accepting you,” she says.

She understands it’s drastic but says it has to be done.

“We’re trying to keep our community, my staff, my family safe. We’re trying to keep people safe,” she says. “And I feel like this is what we have to do.”

Read more: Small businesses call on Ontario to change COVID-19 lockdown rules as big box stores remain open

She says dealing with pushback mostly coming from travellers forced her hand.

“What we were seeing is a lot of backlash when it comes to the masks. First and foremost people showing up at the door without a mask on,” said Nippard.

“We’re seeing people get up and my staff are having to physically tell them to please put your mask on … It’s babysitting and it’s not fair to my staff.”

Click to play video 'Rural Ontario asks visitors from COVID-19 hot zones to ‘stay home’' Rural Ontario asks visitors from COVID-19 hot zones to ‘stay home’
Rural Ontario asks visitors from COVID-19 hot zones to ‘stay home’ – Nov 24, 2020

Nippard says she has a large support system in the region and have not had any issues with customers in the area. She says unfortunately when it comes to pushback, most of the time it’s people from outside of Durham Region.

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“We know it’s coming from out of the region, which is unfortunate, but it is. I have heard from a number of other business owners in the area they are having the same problem.”

Read more: Rural Ontario regions request residents from COVID-19 hot zones to stay home

Screening customers has been something Joe Ciampo, the owner of Bellissima The Salon in Whitby, has been doing since reopening in June.

“With our online e-form we’ve updated it to include where you live. And that you may have to prove where you live if you’re a new client,” says Ciampo. He says it’s his hope that potential region-crossers think twice before doing so.

“Unfortunately it’s not the time to do that,” he says. “We are doing our best to keep everybody safe and I hope everyone else is doing the same.”

Click to play video 'Peterborough mayor “strongly encourages” residents from red, lockdown zones to stay away' Peterborough mayor “strongly encourages” residents from red, lockdown zones to stay away
Peterborough mayor “strongly encourages” residents from red, lockdown zones to stay away – Nov 24, 2020

Not everyone is taking such a harsh approach to the possibility of people coming from other regions. James Panos, owner of Teddy’s Restaurant in Oshawa says he won’t turn anyone away and is confident his safety measures are enough to protect everyone in his building.

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“We prefer local people come in, however you know, we’re not going to police people. We’re just going to do our best and take all the safety precautions that we can.”

Read more: Restaurants in Ontario’s COVID-19 hot spots doubt cold weather patios will save the industry

The owner says after losing nearly 70 per cent of his business — he is taking all measures necessary to protect his staff and customers, and will change direction if need be.

“If my servers feel it’s unsafe for them. I’m going to do absolutely everything I can to protect my team.”

Click to play video 'Small businesses feel unfairly targeted in COVID-19 lockdowns' Small businesses feel unfairly targeted in COVID-19 lockdowns
Small businesses feel unfairly targeted in COVID-19 lockdowns – Nov 23, 2020

Business owners agree telling people from the GTHA to stay away is a strict tactic, but they say with Durham already in the red it’s the only way that they feel they can help keep the region out of lockdown.

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