Durham businesses not allowed to reopen in Step 1 feel snubbed

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WATCH: While some businesses have opened again and are on their way to recovery, there are still many others waiting. As Aaron Streck reports, they're frustrated with how slow this provincial reopening plan is – Jun 11, 2021

While it’s been over two months for those Durham businesses that could reopen in Step 1 Friday, there are still many others waiting.

“We’re set up and ready to go,” said Shawn Lewis, Custom Cutz Barbershop owner.

Lewis only has to wait for the green light from the province at this point but that’s not coming for at least 21 days.

“There’s no reason for us not to be in Step 1. We’re not the cause of it, we’re not spreading it, it’s not coming from personal services so there’s no reason we should be penalized like this. We’re tired of begging the government, we just want to get back to work,” said Lewis.

Last time the Ontario economy reopened, Lewis was able to operate under the colour-coded system as hair salons and barbershops were allowed to open in Durham under red restrictions.

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“It’s too long now, we need to start working,” said Lewis.

Chris Skeates, owner of gym F45 Whitby West, says he believes his gym has “been closed longer than we’ve been open.”

It’s gotten to the point Skeates has lost count. He opened his F45 gym in west Whitby a year and a half ago and says it thrived last summer.

“We could be open right now, with the same case counts and ICU (intensive care unit) capacity, plus with the vaccinations where they’re at, we’re in such a better position this year vs. last year and yet we’re still closed,” said Skeates.

Pre-pandemic, there were up to 36 people and two coaches in the gym at a time but restrictions have affected business growth.

“With being restricted to 10 members per workout, we actually hit a wall of max capacity in here when we didn’t have enough time in a day to serve the amount of members we had,” said Skeates.

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While Skeates is now able to train outdoors, he says not everyone wants to do that.

The gym isn’t allowed to open until Step 3, which is now set to take effect at the end of July — 42 days away.

“Every time we shut down at least 50 per cent just go on pause indefinitely,” said Skeates.

The province has begun Step 1 of reopening a few days ahead of schedule. Premier Doug Ford said last week that the government was taking a “cautious approach” to reopening “based on the numbers coming down.” The province says health system indicators will be reviewed at the end of each step before moving ahead with further reopening.

As other businesses welcome back their customers, Lewis will be counting down the days until he can get back to cutting hair at his shop in Pickering.

“It is relieving, but they’ve said it before and it hasn’t happened. So we’re just waiting and hoping and we have our fingers crossed and we just need to get back to work,” said Lewis.

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