Ontario set to reopen its economy three days ahead of schedule

Published On June 8, 2021 | By Tina Nalova Ikome-Likambi | News

Restaurant owner Collins Tambe isn’t moved by Ontario’s plan to reopen businesses three days earlier than planned.

The June 7 media release stated the province will reopen to allow the resumption of more outdoor activities with smaller crowds and more limited indoor settings.

Ontario’s Step One will include outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people, outdoor dining with up to four people per table, and reopening non-essential retail shops with 15 per cent capacity, the media release stated. But it doesn’t help everyone get back to business.

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North York restaurant owner Collins Tambe said his business was severely impacted by the province’s lockdowns and restrictions during COVID-19. (Courtesy of Collins Tambe).

Tambe, owner of the African Village restaurant, said his business will not benefit from the province’s reopening plan, called Step One of Ontario’s Roadmap.

“It didn’t actually change anything for me,” Tambe said. “I’m open right now for takeout and the reopening stage one implies outdoor patio and I do not have all of that.”

He said his restaurant, located at 2849 Western Rd. in North York, would thrive if indoor door dining was allowed.

“One of our priorities is indoor dining. I have a restaurant and a bar,” Tambe said.

The province’s decision to reopen days ahead of its scheduled date of June 14 comes from the consistent decrease in COVID-19 numbers and high vaccination rates, the province stated.

Premier Doug Ford said in the press release this was made possible by the enormous sacrifices made by individuals, families, and communities across Ontario.

“Thanks to the ongoing success of Team Ontario’s vaccine rollout and the ongoing improvements in public health trends, we are able to enter step one of the Roadmap and begin to safely and cautiously lift restrictions,” Ford said.

The media release stated the province’s situation is surpassing the best-case scenario presented in recent modelling, which showed the province would reach below one thousand new daily infections by June 30.

Also, as of June 6, 72 per cent of the population aged 18 and older in Ontario received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine with more than 10 million doses now administered, it stated.

However, chief medical officer Dr. David Williams said this is not the time to get complacent.

“We must all remain vigilant, as the fight against COVID-19 is not over,” he said. “By continuing to follow public health advice and measures we can continue to reduce transmission, safeguard health system capacity and save lives.”

Tambe said his business has been severely impacted by the province’s lockdowns and restrictions.

“I think if it gave us a total reopening without any restrictions, that will be a good win for us,” Tambe said.

“It’s tough, to be honest. It’s really tough,” he said. “Business has never been the same. I’ve actually lost like half of my customers so far, just because of the lockdown.”

Collins Tambe said his restaurant African Village, located at 2849 Western Rd. in North York, would thrive if indoor door dining was allowed. (Courtesy of African Village Restaurant)

However, Tambe said he is determined to keep his business open and will wait for Ontario’s next steps that allow in-person dining, even at a limited capacity.

“Come rain, come shine, even if we’re not making that revenue as before, we’re still keeping it strong, just to make sure that we serve the community and provide to them,” he said.

Mary Fragedakis, the executive director of the GreekTown on the Danforth Business Improvement Area (BIA), said a significant number of businesses can’t participate in Ontario’s Step One reopening.

“There are many businesses who are not going to be participating in the curb patio experience that some are benefiting from. It’s a problem because outdoor dining only caters to some,” Fragedakis said.

“We had some 55 businesses put in their application for patios, and 28 of them got expanded patios in the road,” she said.

She said several businesses failed to stay open throughout the lockdowns and many others are struggling to stay afloat.

“Unfortunately, there are some favorite businesses of ours that didn’t survive. I mean, there are some businesses, obviously, that are hanging on by their fingernails and thumb,” Fragedakis said.

“Lots of people are very severely impacted and coping with the best way that they can, but it’s going to take a long time for people to repay loans.”

However, she said although some businesses like hair and nail salons have to wait for Step Two of Ontario’s reopening. It is imperative for businesses to return to quasi-normal to survive, Fragedakis said.

“This is life-saving for small businesses in GreekTown BIA and businesses all across the province,” she said. “Is it perfect? No. Is it a good step forward? Yes.”

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