The light at the end of the tunnel may not be as bright as businesses had been expecting as Ontario’s COVID-19 stay-at-home order, scheduled to expire on May 20, may be extended.
The provincewide restrictions have forced businesses, like personal care services and most gyms, to stay closed. Other businesses, like non-essential retailers, have been limited to curbside and online sales.
“I am really worried we’re at the breaking point,” said Dan Kelly, president and CEO of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.
He said Ontario’s restrictions are the toughest in North America and don’t provide for any schedule to allow businesses to reopen.
Kelly said he’s getting calls from members asking that the lobby instruct businesses to reopen against the rules on a predetermined date.
“It’s not a good idea, but I can understand why businesses are at that breaking point. Their entire livelihood is at stake,” Kelly said, adding the CFIB as an organization doesn’t support such a move.
“There has to be a point where it actually ends,” said Rohit Wadhawan, a first-time business owner who opened a restaurant on Toronto’s Queen Street East in December 2019.
Wadhawan, a former Walmart Canada executive, runs Indian Spice Room restaurant, which is surviving on its take-out and delivery business. It had to close its indoor seats when the pandemic began.
“It’s been a challenge, it’s been a struggle,” Wadhawan told Global News, echoing the sentiments of many Toronto-area business owners who’ve spoken about the challenges of managing a small business in a pandemic.
In the next block sits the oldest small business in the Riverside neighbourhood, located just east of downtown.
The Broadview Beauty Parlour is a fixture on Queen Street East. Opened in 1964 by George Iliades, the shop now caters only to men’s haircuts.
Iliades still cuts hair at the shop six days a week — at least he did until pandemic restrictions made that impossible. He said he wants to go back as soon as possible.
“This stresses me out: why should I be away from my store so many months,” Iliades told Global News in an interview in front of his home.
He said he’s disappointed that it appears the Ontario government is going to delay reopening even further.
Kelly said there’s no reason businesses like hair salons shouldn’t be able to reopen in a limited way immediately, especially since the province is providing rapid COVID-19 testing kits to operators.
Meanwhile, Iliades said he will be back at work as soon as he’s allowed. He stops by the shop once a week and bumps into clients on the street.
Many said they’re getting haircuts from their partners, which is not good for future business if they don’t return to his shop.
“You’re losing customers just the same,” Iliades said.