It’s the news many local business owners have been waiting to hear – Ontario will be partially reopening at the end of the month as the government relaxes some of its latest COVID-19 restrictions.
It’s been a long two years for pub owner Troy Gadbois.
He’s part-owner of three pubs in Kingston, Ont., including the Duchess Pub in the city’s east end.
Thursday’s provincial announcement outlining a gradual lifting of public health restrictions means he can reopen, for the fourth time, on Jan. 31.
“It’s certainly welcome news,” Gadbois says. “Yesterday everyone’s phones were blowing up, anxious to get back to it. So hopefully it’ll raise some spirits a little bit.”
The government says indoor dining, gyms, movie theatres, museums and gaming halls can reopen at 50 per cent capacity.
Also, at the end of the month, sporting events, concert halls and theatres can reopen at 50 per cent capacity or 500 people, whichever is less.
For gym owner Bob Pain, reopening from another shutdown is a welcome transition.
“That’s what everyone is missing. They want the social aspect, the community, the culture, the fun, laughing, working out with other people,” the Limestone Athletics owner says. “And that’s why with us reopening, everyone’s excited … the amount of messages we’ve received saying ‘I’m so excited and can’t wait to get back in.'”
Each step of the reopening will be separated by 21 days, in order to monitor health trends, Doug Ford said in announcing the eased restrictions.
Gadbois says his businesses will also be reopening slowly, with reduced hours and staff to start.
“It’s like slowing a cruise ship down and starting one up,” he says. “You need to think ahead before you slow it down and think ahead before you get it going again.”
Along with owning a gym, Pain also plans to open an upscale pub in Bath, a venture into the restaurant industry that’s been slowed by two years of off-and-on lockdowns.
“It’s tough, but we enjoy the challenges,” Pain says. “I’m not saying we enjoy COVID, but we enjoy the challenges. It’s just part of the territory now that we do it.”
As business owners pivot yet again to making reopening plans, they hope dine-in customers will embrace the change and venture back.