Government officials have accelerated Ontario’s reopening plan, with Step 3 set to take effect July 16, which means more restrictions will loosen as summer kicks into full swing.
The day after the announcement was made, you could feel the energy in downtown Kingston.
Princess Street was closed to vehicular traffic on Saturday to promote downtown businesses.
There was live music, full patios and hundreds of pedestrians roaming the streets, all while restaurants were preparing to reopen indoor dining on Friday.
“There’s a bit of work to be done, but we’re happy to be back at work and just getting inside,” says Danielle Sylvester, general manager at the Rustic Spud.
“The rainy days kind of take a toll on patio seating, so it’ll be nice to have some shelter inside for sure.”
Since indoor dining has not been allowed in months amid the COVID-19 pandemic, eateries have been leaning heavily on their patio seating.
But having another place to seat customers can’t come quickly enough.
“It’s been crazy busy — we only have eight tables, but they’re always packed,” says Jordan Keeler, bar manager at the Rustic Spud.
“It always seems like people are looking for somewhere to sit here. We have full reservations almost every night. It’s a lot.”
Step 3 doesn’t really change much for retailers, but that doesn’t mean they won’t benefit.
Looser restrictions will mean more foot traffic downtown, which leads to more people entering shops.
“It’s so good to finally have people downtown again,” says Colin Morris, owner of FrameWorks Kingston.
“I mean, I’m just looking around now and there’s just a lot of people happy to be out. Hopefully it’s a sign of good things to come.”
For many, this accelerated announcement has them excited about the light at the end of the tunnel.
“It’s probably good to have some healthy skepticism, but maybe we are actually getting to the end of this,” adds Morris.
The province says that if all goes well in Step 3, it will look into removing almost all public health measures.