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London, Ont. summer patio concert series facing cancellation due to changes in reopening plan

Jones Entertainment Group president Brad Jones (left) and PredictMedix COO Dr. Rahul Kushwah stand by a Safe Entry Station, a screening device that will be deployed at Hockeyfest and Rock the Park. Andrew Graham / Global News

A patio concert series intended to be the start of the return to normal in London, Ont., has hit a roadblock by way of the province’s new staged reopening plan amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The Road to Rock the Park patio series at Crossing Pub an Eatery was set to start on July 2, with several performances throughout July and August, by Tim Hicks, Dueling Pianos, The Reklaws and The Trews.

Under Stage 1 of the province’s reopening plan, concerts and other performances are not permitted for groups larger than 10, while restaurants and bars can be open with outdoor dining up to four people per table.

Under Stage 2, which was set to begin July 2, outdoor live music events are allowed to restart, but the spectator capacity restrictions have not yet been defined.

Read more: HockeyFest starts June 25 in London, Ont., Rock the Park postponed to 2022

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Organizer and president of Jones Entertainment Brad Jones said when the series was planned several months back, they were organizing things under Ontario’s colour-coded reopening system.

“We anticipated we would be in code orange at least, or beyond, which is 100 people outdoors at restaurants, patios and concerts,” Jones said

“We went with that because in our business, it’s not like retail where you can be told on a Thursday you will open on Friday — we need a few months.”

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The patio series was intended to be a much smaller version to replace the company’s annual Rock the Park concert series held in London’s Harris Park, which for the second year in a row was postponed due to COVID-19 restrictions. The series is now set to take place from July 13 to July 16, 2022.

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Jones argues the way this much smaller series set up on Crossing’s patio they should be allowed to open as part of the rules for restaurants and patios.

“You drive by the beach in Grand Bend and you see thousands of people on the beach and we are trying to be in full compliance on a patio with 100 people,” Jones said.

He said they ensured they had all the proper permits in place with the city’s bylaw office and they were taking precautions to cap each event at 100 people spaced out with six people per table.

Read more: Ontario enters provincial COVID-19 reopening plan: Here’s what is allowed in Step 1

“The regulations as we see them, there is some grey area, and what we are asking is let’s operate in the grey area in a commonsense perspective not in a fearful panicked perspective,” said lawyer for the company Phillip Millar.

But according to medical officer of Health, Dr. Chris Mackie, there is no room for interpretation.

“There is no grey area here. If you’re having a concert it’s a concert, and there are limits, the limit is 10 people and the fact you do it on a patio that is otherwise allowed to be open does not change the limit,” Mackie said.

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For Mackie, the problem with concerts is they are social events and he said even though rules can be put in place people are likely to gather and not pay attention to physical distancing.

“I agree with organizers — it’s very unfortunate it has to be cancelled and I can completely understand how difficult it must be to be planning events in the face of changing regulations.”

Mackie said he expects Stage 2 to start around July 2, but said that could easily be moved up or back and there have not been any defined rules outlining how many people would be allowed to attended a concert or event.

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