Local businesses scramble to be ready for Friday reopening
OTTAWA -- They hope it’s the final countdown; three more days until restaurants and small businesses can welcome patrons once again.
“We’ve been anticipating an early reopening so really excited to get back at it,” Sarah Chown, co-owner of the Metropolitan Brasserie said.
On Monday, the Ontario government announced Step 1 of the province's reopening plan would begin at 12:01 a.m. Friday, forcing businesses to quickly adjust.
“We’ve got a lot of people that we’re going to need to recall, kitchen staff and front of house staff, and we do have some hiring and training that we’re hoping to have to do, given that we’ve lost of number of people throughout the season,” Chown said.
On Clarence Street and around Ottawa, new patios are being built every day, but many business owners say they’ll be hard-pressed to meet the Friday opening.
“There’s a lot of work that has to happen in order to get this to open on Friday, so last Friday would’ve been great to know,” Summer Baird, owner of the Hintonburg Public House said.
Baird said she was not expecting to open early. Now she’s doing everything she can to make it happen; something she gives herself 80 per cent odds of accomplishing.
“My orders need to go in on the weekend, a lot of them, and then staff management. I can’t just expect my staff - who have stuck with me for a long time - to just drop everything and come into work,” Baird said.
Under Step 1 of the reopening plan, patio dining can return without capacity limits or early curfews but tables will be limited to four people.
Indoor shopping at non-essential retail stores can return at a 15 per cent capacity and outdoor fitness groups and day camps are also now permitted.
“The message maybe could’ve been a little bit clearer but I think we’re really just focused on getting the doors back open getting, getting back to feeling normal,” Josh Chambers, co-owner of the Bank Street clothing store Stomping Ground said.
Chambers says he’s lucky that he won’t face the same staffing issues many other businesses will be confronted with, but he’s not without his own challenges.
“Cleaning the store, making sure we have the right inventory and making sure we have the right message to our own customers that we’ve created a safe environment to shop in,” Chambers said.
Some health experts are urging caution ahead of the reopening, especially in regards to the increasing numbers of the Delta COVID-19 variant, originally identified in India.
“We can go forth, we’re going to have some spots that will be difficult and we’ll just have to keep a real close eye on overall numbers to see if we need to slow opening down or reverse,” The Ottawa Hospital Senior Scientist Dr. Doug Manuel said.
Manuel also expressed concern about possible spread of the virus among patrons on patios.
“You want to have two out of three; outdoors, masking, or social distancing. When I go around town right now I see one out of three,” he added.
Manuel stressed people eating on patios should consider wearing a mask when they’re not eating or drinking if social distancing can’t be maintained.
Still, with just days until Step 1 of the reopening, many business owners say they’re desperate for a chance to make up for lost sales.
“We’ve lost so much already, every weekend that we miss is huge, every weekday that we miss is huge. You’re never going to make up the ground that we lost but we really got to get back at it in terms of making ends meet,” Chown said.