Restaurants Canada is calling on the Ontario government to provide “immediate guidance” on the possible easing of restrictions next week.
The group, which advocates for the country’s foodservice industry, released a statement on Wednesday calling for clarity on what will happen come Jan. 26.
“Restaurants can’t simply open their doors at a moment’s notice,” Restaurants Canada president and CEO Todd Barclay said in the statement.
“They need to order food and supplies, schedule staff and prepare menus. With Ontario’s latest closure of indoor dining set to end on Jan. 26, restaurant operators deserve to know by now if these latest restrictions will be completely lifted or if dining will continue to be restricted to the 50 per cent capacity limit imposed in December.”
Earlier this month, the province implemented new restrictions amid a spike in Omicron cases. The government said the measures would be in place until at least Jan. 26.
They included additional capacity limits, a ban on indoor dining, and the closure of several types of facilities including gyms, cinemas, and museums. Takeout, drive-thru and delivery is permitted for restaurants, as is outdoor dining with restrictions.
The sale of alcohol is restricted after 10 p.m., as is the consumption of alcohol at businesses after 11 p.m., with delivery and takeout exempted.
Government officials have said an announcement will be coming sometime this week regarding what will happen with the restrictions.
“When our government announced the introduction of measures to blunt transmission of Omicron, we were clear that they were time limited,” Health Minister Christine Elliott said during a COVID-19 update Wednesday.
“We know that people and businesses need certainty on what the future looks like. And as the premier mentioned yesterday, we will be providing more clarity later this week.”
Premier Doug Ford said Wednesday that a “good announcement” is coming this week for restaurants and gyms in the province.
“No one dislikes these shutdowns more than I do. I actually despise them, but in saying that, health is a priority and I follow the guidelines of the chief medial officer, but we look forward to having a good announcement for restaurants and gyms and other folks that have been closed,” he said.
The premier has hinted for a couple of days now that the province may soon announce an easing of restrictions.
It’s not yet clear how exactly restaurant operations could be impacted or whether indoor dining will immediately be allowed to reopen.
In Wednesday’s COVID update, Elliott said the province is starting to see “glimmers of hope” in its fight against Omicron.
Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, said the rate of hospitalizations and cases in the intensive care unit are increasing at a slower pace.
He also said the average length of stay in hospital for COVID-19 patients is now five days with the Omicron variant, compared to nine days with Delta.
Meanwhile, Restaurants Canada said they have sent a letter to Ford “renewing the industry’s call to meet with policymakers and public health officials to gain insights into decisions impacting foodservice operations.”
The group also called for increased supports for the foodservice industry.
“Current emergency aid from the provincial government only covers a small portion of losses and leaves out many hard-hit businesses altogether,” Restaurants Canada vice president of central Canada operations James Rilett said.
“Our industry deserves sufficient compensation and a seat at the decision-making table to work with government on ways to stop the roller coaster of restaurant closures.”
The statement called for a deferral of HST payments, reinstating a moratorium on commercial tenant evictions and an increase in funding available through the Ontario COVID-19 Small Business Relief Grant program as well an expansion of the program’s eligibility to help larger restaurant operators.
— With files from The Canadian Press