It’s that time of year when London, Ont., bars would usually be packed with patrons, but establishments say they’re not expecting that this holiday season.
As of Sunday, bars and restaurants must operate at 50 per cent capacity and close by 11 p.m. A maximum of 10 people are allowed to sit at a table, and alcohol is restricted after 10 p.m.
For Fatty Patty’s manager Tatiana Tarevski, the new restrictions felt like moving back a few steps.
“It’s disappointing because it feels like just when things were starting to head into the direction of normalcy, here we are again with limitations.”
“We were finally getting busier (these) past few months, the way it used to be before COVID,” she continued. “We were having busy nights and busy lunches. The capacity is discouraging and it’s going to set us back for sure.”
With 186 seats in the restaurant, Tarevski said operating at 50 per cent capacity is still better than February when London and Middlesex were in the “red zone.” During that time, restaurants and bars were only allowed a maximum of 10 patrons at a time.
Jim Karaouzas, the owner of Jimbo’s Pub and Eatery, said he also fears returning to a time with stricter restrictions and possibly another lockdown.
Karaouzas said the new restrictions that came into effect Sunday morning won’t help his restaurant, which hasn’t had more business in recent months.
“Am I happy with it? I mean, of course not, but what can we do?” he said. “If it slows down and we don’t get any (government) support, we’re going to have to lay people off.”
Karaouzas said that prior to COVID-19, his pub was popular on karaoke nights, which were held twice a week. They have been held once a week since COVID-19 began. Yet with one of the new restrictions limiting dancing and another requiring all patrons to be seated, Karaouzas isn’t sure if karaoke nights can continue.
Bank of Canada expected to deliver interest rate hike next week. How high will it go?
Food prices set to rise another 5-7% in 2023 after record inflation year: report
As for Tarevski, she said she’s unsure if and how holiday get-togethers can move forward in light of the new restrictions.
“We booked a couple of (large) events, and now, we’re going to have to make adjustments, call those people back that haven’t had their get-togethers yet, and have them adjust their plans,” she said.
The 50 per cent capacity restriction impacts more than bars and restaurants. It also impacts retailers.
In downtown London, the owner of a clothing store said the new restrictions don’t have much of an impact on her business.
“Since COVID, we haven’t had a store jam-packed anyway, so it’s not something we’ll have a problem with,” said Sharon Lehman, the owner of LifeStyles. “We’ve never really had 50 per cent capacity since COVID began.”
Lehman said she was optimistic these past few months as her business got busier, but not busier than pre-COVID times.
She says her worst fear is another lockdown, which took place last year right after Christmas.
The clothing store owner said her shop will be open on Boxing Day this year, and she’ll be monitoring the 50 per cent capacity rule more closely that day.
“I’ll be at the door to ensure we’re not allowing too many people in the store at once on Boxing Day, because usually, that’s a higher-traffic day, the 26th and 27th.”
Capacity limits, restrictions on food and drink service, and gathering size caps were announced Friday.
— with files from Global News’ Ryan Rocca