OTTAWA -- On day two in the Red-Control zone, Ottawa restaurants are once again adapting to changes to the COVID-19 restrictions.

This time, the Ontario government has eased the restrictions on capacity indoors to allow more people to dine while in the red zone.

"It’s great, and I’m happy some people fought for the small businesses in Ottawa," said Ryan Quennell, General Manager of The Grand in the ByWard Market.

Ottawa moved into the red zone at 12:01 a.m. Friday, as COVID-19 cases continued to rise.  At 5:30 p.m. Friday, the Ontario government announced changes for capacity limits, allowing bars and restaurants to increase capacity from 10 people to 50 per cent with a cap of 50 people per establishment.

"I was already full with my reservations of 10 people for the night, getting up to 50 it’s great, and having the nice weather gives people a nice option to sit outside as well," said Quennell.

The change to loosen restrictions came after a push from business owners and Ottawa's mayor.

"It just didn’t make any sense, to have a limit of 10 in a restaurant that can sit 150 and you had a coffee who could sit 20 people and you can sit 10 people in that, so to even the playing field we pushed the province," said Mayor Jim Watson.

At Reynold's Restaurant on Clyde Avenue, owner Gregory Aboukheir was thrilled about the change — just days after expressing frustration in an interview with CTV News.

"I was definitely shocked, and you want to thank whoever was behind it all," he said. 

"Moving back to 50 per cent is very encouraging for myself, my customers are happy."

But Aboukheir said the short notice yet again isn’t easy.

"Now you have to recall staff again, it’s very difficult, this whole yo-yo it’s very hard to maintain," he said.

Ontario also announced new rules for sitting at tables indoors.  Under the Red-Control zone, only patrons from the same household can sit together, with limited exceptions for caregivers and people who live alone.


While restaurant owners are thrilled with the new capacity limits, there is growing concern amongst some health experts.

"To go to open up restaurants, I just don’t understand the rationale. To me it just makes no sense, as they say it does not compute," said Dr. Ronald St. John, former federal manager to the SARS response in Canada.

Cases locally and across the province are on the rise. Ottawa Public Health reported over 100 new cases Saturday for the first time since Jan. 21.

"It’s beginning to look like we’re in a third wave and there are inevitable consequences of an increased number of cases," said Dr. St. John.