'I'm more afraid of the government than Omicron:' Ottawa business owners react to new restrictions
As Ontario prepares to move back to a partial lockdown, businesses are dealing with a far too familiar feeling of frustration.
Barely one step into the new year, Ontario is taking at least two steps back.
"It feels like a really hard gut punch,” said Johnny Bonney, general manager of the King Eddy in the ByWard Market. “You just have all the air sucked out of the room. It's frustrating, it's embarrassing, it's maddening, it's sad...I'm at a loss of words that we're right back to where we started.”
Restaurants like the King Eddy are being forced to close their doors to indoor dining, pivoting back to takeout only.
"At this point, I'm more afraid of the government than Omicron," Bonney said.
"Omicron case counts are rising exponentially across the province, we face a tsunami of new cases in the days and weeks ahead," said Premier Doug Ford during a press conference Monday announcing the new measures.
The slew of new rules start Jan. 5 and will last 21 days, they include:
- Closing indoor dining, gyms, and theatres
- Slashing capacity to 50 per cent at retail stores, malls and personal care services
- Cutting social gatherings to five people indoor and 10 people outdoors
- And pausing non-emergent and non-urgent surgeries and procedures
"We anticipate a very quick, short and rapid approach to this epidemic and impact on the health care system. That is why these measures are timely, they're proportionate to the risk and they should diminish the burden on the healthcare system," said Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore.
For gyms and fitness facilities, the closures come at a time when business is usually expected to boom.
"When you shut us down for a fifth time, you don't give us any notion of financial support, at the worst time of the year, what do you expect us to do?" said Ashley Mathieu, owner of Anytime Fitness locations in Orleans and on Kent Street downtown.
Without financial support, business advocates say many won't survive.
"These businesses have nothing left,” said Dan Kelly, President and CEO of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. “They're at the absolute end of their rope and baring massive financial support from the provincial government we can expect huge numbers of closures in the months ahead.”
The new measures come as a result of surging Omicron cases in the province, threatening pressure on the healthcare system.
And so just days into a new year, instead of a fresh start, many are plunged back into the despair of the past.
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