Ottawa businesses discouraged by latest round of COVID-19 restrictions

Ottawa businesses discouraged by latest round of COVID-19 restrictions

Some Ottawa business owners say they are disappointed with the latest round of restrictions being imposed on their activities in a bid to slow the transmission of COVID-19.

The province announced Friday new capacity rules on restaurants, bars, nightclubs, gyms and event centres in Ottawa, Toronto and Peel — the three current hotspots for COVID-19 in the province.

Restaurants must limit the number of guests dining indoors to six per table, up to a maximum of 100, while continuing to ensure two-metre distancing between different groups.

“It’s frustrating because always the first finger pointed is at restaurants when we’ve been doing very well in general in Ottawa,” said Dimitri Aramouni, owner and operator of three Mexicali Rosa’s franchises.

“We take a lot of precautions. We sanitize frequently. And [medical officer of health Dr. Vera] Etches and Mayor Jim Watson have both been on record in the past few months, saying that restaurants have been doing very well following procedures.”

Aramouni said he had to call several customers with reservations for groups of 10 or 15 to cancel after Premier Doug Ford made the announcement. The new measures came into effect midnight Saturday.

“It’s going to hurt business for sure,” said Aramouni. “People that were going to come out on date night for two people or four people aren’t going to come out now just because they’re a little worried.”

Weddings cancelled, rescheduled

Stricter capacity limits of 50 people at event spaces, including banquet centres and wedding venues, mean that Tony Zacconi is dealing with some anxious brides and grooms.

“Our phone’s been ringing off the hook,” said Zacconi, owner of Sala San Marco Event and Conference Centre on Preston Street in Little Italy. 

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Zacconi said his revenue is already down by almost 90 per cent. But he’s been able to stay afloat through restaurant sales and the odd wedding or corporate event — some of which were already rescheduled from earlier this year.

After Friday’s announcement, Zacconi said he’ll be forced to cancel or rearrange two weddings next weekend that were supposed to take place in different rooms at the same time.

“I’ve got about 20,000 square feet. I’ve four different rooms in there … We have lots of space … It’s like getting married in a warehouse,” said Zacconi. “But now 50 people per facility, it doesn’t make any sense.”

WATCH | Banquet hall owner reacts to premier’s announcement restricting numbers:

Tony Zacconi, owner of Sala San Marco banquet and conference centre, said his hope has been extinguished and the announcement has left a lot of brides and grooms scrambling. 1:05

YMCA reopening plans on pause

Gyms and fitness centres will also face new rules — a maximum of 10 people per exercise class and 50 people inside at one time. 

For larger centres like the YMCA-YWCA, it means postponing its reopening plans.

“We wanted to start to do more classes. We wanted to start to appeal to our wider audience. We want to start up our swimming pools,” said Mike Tait, YMCA-YWCA vice-president of health and fitness aquatics for the national capital region.

“That will now become a problem,” he said.

Despite disappointment among business owners, some top public health officials want to see even tighter measures. Toronto’s medical officer of health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, asked the province to prohibit indoor dining altogether. 

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De Villa’s counterpart in Ottawa agrees with the restrictions, saying they send a serious message.

“I’m encouraged it’s in the right direction,” Etches said. “I am hopeful that the combination of more clear messaging about households … and these actions of the province, it will send that message that this is an important time. This is the time to do what we know works.”

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