June 12, 2024

Ontarians and business owners are left feeling confused and angry after the government moved most of the province down a restriction level, allowing outdoor dining in all zones- for one week. As of April 2, 2021 the province is once again in lockdown with strange restrictions. 

On Mar. 22, eight regions within Ontario moved to new levels on the colour-coded restriction chart. And across the province, even in grey zones, outdoor dining was approved. This was seen as an attempt to help our economy and small businesses recover.

But on April 2, just over a week later, Premier Doug Ford announced yet another province-wide shut down due to the sharp spike in COVID-19 cases. This meant the closure of patios, restaurants, hair salons and small businesses in order to help stop the spread. Yet, places like malls and warehouses remain open.  

Millcreek Pub in Grand Valley, Ont., is forced to take on take out once again. “I’m lucky that the community supports us or else this would be a really tough time for our business,” said pub owner Donnie Beattie. Photo taken from Millcreek Pub Instagram.

 “It’s been a frustrating time for small restaurant and business owners across the province,” said Donnie Beattie, the owner of Millcreek Pubs in Dufferin County.

His restaurants were open for dine-in for about a month before going from the orange zone and into shut down.

     “This shutdown blindsided a lot of people who were preparing to fully open. This means hiring staff, bringing back people who haven’t worked in months and buying more products to make sure you can handle a full house. That’s just money wasted,” said Beattie.

      The province-wide shutdown has come as a surprise to many people. There were talks about a third wave hitting us as COVID-19 numbers rose but like Beattie, owners were preparing to fully open again as the government moved their restrictions down a level as of two weeks ago.

According to Statistics Canada, since the beginning of COVID-19, around 23 per cent of the foodservice workforce has been laid off because of the lack of work. This is a number that is likely to increase after this lockdown as restaurants cannot afford to pay multiple staff and more businesses will be forced to shut down.

Evelyn McPherson is a local server in Orangeville, Ont., whose hours have been significantly cut as a result of the lockdown. Just like many others across the province, McPherson was eager to get back to a full-time schedule to make up for the lack of earners since December.

“We were just getting back into a groove,” said McPherson. “Things felt like they were running normally again. I hadn’t worked normal hours in months. But now we’re back to takeout and my restaurant went from having a lot of staff to my boss and I,” said McPherson.

This diagram shows how many businesses are opened and staffed within Ontario as of Mar. 9, 2020. Even before lockdown, less than half of businesses were fully staffed and making one third of their normal intake in sales. These numbers are expected to change after this lockdown. Taken from the Small Business Recovery Dashboard.

      Restaurants Canada states that since March 2020, around 10,000 restaurants have closed and Dan Kelly, the president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business predicts that one-third of restaurants across Canada may permanently close as a result of the pandemic. 

     The lockdown was brought on because of the increase of virus variables across the province and a shortage of ICU beds in hospitals. Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, said that there have been 5,154 confirmed COVID-19 variant cases, which are believed to be more transmissible and have more severe effects. 

      “It’s frustrating, but I get it,” said McPherson. “We need to keep people safe. But I don’t think it’s restaurants and salons that are the spreaders. I hope this is the last lockdown cause I don’t know how much longer these small businesses can survive.”

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