Ottawa restaurateurs, who were prohibited late last week from opening their patios as part of the province’s “emergency brake” on the spread of COVID-19, have felt all the more penalized after seeing people congregating en masse last weekend in public places and at big-box stores.
The weekend’s balmy weather, which is expected to continue through this week, drew crowds, in particular, to the ByWard Market and to the queues outside high-capacity stores.
Dominique Dufour, chef and co-owner of Grey Jay Hospitality on Preston Street, said Monday she was outside the ByWard Market Building on Saturday and it was “basically just a free-for-all,” filled with people, many of whom were not wearing masks, sitting at the city’s tables and chairs, but unmonitored by any staff.
Under the latest pandemic restrictions, outdoor crowds in Ontario are to be limited to five or fewer observing physical distancing.
“I think that if we’re being hit with such strict restrictions … the city should be on the side of the small businesses who are here and abide by the same rules,” Dufour said. “We’re trying to make an effort to limit our contacts and gatherings. These (city) patios are (not) conducive to that … they’re counter to what we’re trying to achieve, which is to bring the cases lower.”
Lindzy Thompson, co-owner of the King Eddy restaurant on Clarence Street, said the Market’s common areas were packed on the weekend with “people just sitting wherever they could, in areas that weren’t monitored or sanitized.”© Jean Levac Lindzy Thompson, co-owner of the King Eddy restaurant on Clarence Street, said the ByWard Market’s common areas were packed on the weekend.
Meanwhile, her 80-seat patio had been shut, and she had to discourage people from sitting at its tables. “It’s very disappointing,” said Thompson. “We’ve had a pretty tough year already and we really rely on long weekends and weekends with good weather.”
A Market building staffer said Saturday the core of the building had been closed and about half its tables had been removed from the outdoor plaza.© Jean Levac It was a nice afternoon in the ByWard Market on Monday, April 05, 2021.
On Monday during the lunch hour, chairs and tables outside the Market building had been removed, but some small groups of people were still passing time there. Police presence in the ByWard Market was also visible.
France Desfossés, co-owner of Planet Coffee on York Street, said that while her 25-table patio had been dismantled, people last weekend were sitting wherever they could in the nearby courtyards, and even on her business’s umbrella stands.
However, Desfossés did not call for the ban on patio service to be dropped. She said she’s fearful of the spread of the virus, and that strict measures are needed.© Jean Levac France Desfossés, co-owner of Planet Coffee on York Street, said that while her 25-table patio had been dismantled, people last weekend were sitting wherever they could in the nearby courtyards.
Dave Longbottom, owner of Flora Hall Brewery in Centretown, said that, given the crowds outdoors and in big-box stores, the current lockdown is just “optics and posturing, and very little substance,” with restaurants, gyms and personal-care services taking an unfair hit.
His business had worked with the City of Ottawa to close Flora Street on weekends to operate an outdoor “beer garden” that could seat 40. Until late last week, staff enforced physical distancing, did what they could to ensure that only people from the same household were seated together and made sure tables were sanitized, he said.
The 28-day closure of his patio, which was also open on weekdays, but seated fewer people, will deprive the brewery of revenue “certainly in the six figures,” Longbottom said.
Longbottom said it was “glaringly inconsistent, punitive and unfair” to close patios while allowing large stores to be open at 50 per cent occupancy. “T o close patios and leave Walmarts and Costcos open to the extent that they are makes no sense to me,” he said.© Tony Caldwell Dave Longbottom, owner of Flora Hall Brewery, says the hospitality sector could suffer through a lockdown that doesn’t even work.
In the worst-case scenario, the hospitality sector will go through a 28-day lockdown that didn’t work, “because they didn’t go far enough … because of other things that remain open,” Longbottom said.
The City of Ottawa was closed on Easter Monday and staff could not be reached for comment.
But Dr. Vera Etches, the city’s medical officer of health, wrote on Twitter Monday that because of the rise of variants, an increase in ICU admissions and other troubling pandemic statistics, she is asking the Ontario government to implement more restrictions, including a provincewide stay-at-home order.
firstname.lastname@example.org© Jean Levac It was a nice afternoon in the ByWard Market on Monday, April 05, 2021.