OTTAWA -- Ottawa restaurant and fitness centre owners are applauding the Ontario government's move to lift capacity limits during the COVID-19 pandemic this fall.

"It's very exciting news," said Victoria Bassi, owner of TG Athletics in Kanata, during an interview on Newstalk 580 CFRA's Ottawa Now with Kristy Cameron.

"It feels like it kind of gives us a level playing field, finally, after all this time."

Starting Monday, Ontario is lifting capacity limits in the "vast majority of settings" where proof of vaccination is required, including restaurants, bars and other food and drink establishments, and indoor areas of sports and recreational facilities such as gyms.

"Stoked, to say the least," said Derek Urban, general manager of High Fives Sports Pub. "We've been looking forward to this day for a very long time."

Urban tells CTV News Ottawa capacity restrictions being lifted is a game changer.

"We have about 40 to 50 per cent of our chairs in the basement. We'll bring those all up and rearrange how everything is set up and get ready to rock and roll," said Urban.

At Anytime Fitness, owner Ashley Mathieu says the 100 per cent capacity is a boost for employees.

"Now having the ability to be at 100 per cent puts staff at ease and our members at ease because now they're not wondering if they can come in or not," said Mathieu.

Under Ontario's Stage 3 of the Roadmap to Reopen Plan, sports and recreational facilities were limited to 50 per cent capacity indoors. Bassi says the capacity restrictions have hurt the bottom line at TG Athletics since reopening this summer.

"Operating limitedly, we've been able to barely break even. Fifty per cent capacity brings us to relatively nothing and especially just carrying over the debt that we've acquired all this time. This new news is the best news that we could have had, it's been a long time coming," said Bassi.

"It's been a long road for sure."

In a statement on Twitter, Mayor Jim Watson said the Ontario government's long-term reopening strategy is "undoubtedly encouraging for residents across Ontario."

"We must remain cautious on many fronts and make one more push through this winter to finally see the light and the end of the tunnel," said Watson.

"Our local businesses have done an incredible job making their spaces safer and Ottawa residents have responded with great support. Let’s keep this going - get out there and give them a boost!"

Speaking on Newstalk 580 CFRA Friday afternoon, Watson said Ontario is taking a "cautious approach" to lifting COVID-19 restrictions in the short-term and long-term.

"They obviously got a lot of pressure from the restaurant, hospitality industry because, as you know, patio season is quickly, sadly, coming to an end and they need that greater capacity in the restaurants to make a go of it in the colder weather," said Watson.

"I think this measured approach does make some sense."

Watson says he thanks Premier Doug Ford for listening to the restaurant industry and lifting the capacity restrictions, but urges everyone to continue to maintain physical distancing and masking.

While restaurants and fitness centres prepare to increase capacity, there is concern about having enough staff in place.

"Like the rest of the industry. we`ve felt it," said Urban.  "The amount of interviews I've set up, I'd say 50 per cent of them don't even show up."

Here is a look at the Ontario businesses allowed to open without physical distancing requirements as of 12:01 a.m. Monday (All settings are required to ask for proof of vaccination)

  • Restaurants, bars and other food or drink establishments
  • Indoor areas of sports and recreational facilities, including gyms
  • Casinos, bingo halls and other gaming establishments
  • Indoor meeting and event spaces

Ontario says it will lift capacity limits and physical distancing requirements at these establishments if they choose to require proof of vaccination, including:

  • Barber shops, salons, tattoo parlours
  • Indoor areas of museums, galleries, aquariums, zoos, science centres, landmarks, historic sites
  • Indoor areas of amusement parks
  • Indoor tour and guide services
  • Boat tours
  • Indoor areas of marinas and boating clubs
  • Open house events provided by real estate agencies
  • Indoor areas of photography studios and services

Nov. 15, 2021

The Ontario government says it will lift capacity limits in the remaining higher-risk settings where proof of vaccination is required on Nov. 15, including:

  • Food and drink establishments with dance facilities, including night clubs, wedding receptions in meeting/event spaces
  • Strip clubs
  • Sex clubs

Jan. 17, 2020

The Ontario government says "in the absence of concerning trends in public health and health care following the winter holiday months", it will begin to gradually lift capacity limits in settings where proof of vaccination is not required.

"Proof of vaccination requirements may also begin to be gradually lifted at this time, including for restaurants, bars and other food and drink establishments, facilities used for sports and recreational facilities and casinos, bingo halls and other gaming establishments," said the Ontario government in a media release.

Feb. 7, 2022

Ontario will lift proof of vaccination requirements in high-risk settings, including night clubs, strip clubs and bathhouses and sex clubs.

March 28, 2022

Ontario says on March 28, it is intended that remaining public health and workplace safety measures may be lifted, including wearing face coverings in indoor public settings.

"In addition, the provincial requirement for proof of vaccination will be lifted for all remaining settings, including meeting and event spaces, sporting events, concerts, theatres and cinemas, racing venues and commercial and film productions with studio audiences," said the province in a statement on Friday afternoon.