People working in the restaurant sector on Monday that Humber News spoke with said they were pleased by the move by Ontario to end mask and capacity limits.
Premier Doug Ford announced on Monday that Ontario plans to end COVID-19 vaccine passport mandate and capacity limit at restaurants, bars and cafes, as well as other places..
Ford spoke at a news conference on Monday morning and explained the next steps for the province.
The proof of COVID-19 vaccination requirement will be removed on March 1 if public health and health system indicators keep improving, Ford said.
“It was a decision that should have been made earlier,” said Cem Sapmaz, the business manager of Well and Better Coffee shop in Toronto’s north end.
“It is a very late decision,” Sapmaz said.
The Ontario government, in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health, started requiring people to get fully vaccinated and show proof of their vaccination status to dine in as of Sept. 22, 2021.
“While there were no restrictions on the (food) markets in which people interact with each other more, they restricted the restaurants,” said Idris Bal, the business administrator of Mama Fatma Turkish Cuisine in Woodbridge, northwest of Toronto.
“At least our customers come here with their family members and friends with whom they are in constant contact during the day.”
With the restriction, some Ontario restaurant owners had experienced negative reactions from their customers unhappy about having to produce documentation on their vaccination status.
Bal said that some people even tried to cheat by showing someone else’s vaccine passports at the restaurants.
“Now, they will not have to argue or lie,” he said.
While mask requirements will remain in place, all capacity limits in restaurants, bars, cinemas and gyms will be suspended as of Thursday, a move set to take effect on Feb. 21, Ford said.
The capacity limits will be lifted starting on Feb. 17 at the in-door settings where proof of vaccination is required by law.
Sapmaz said that small businesses were especially adversely affected by the limited capacity.
“Winters are already very cold. Fifty per cent capacity loss means 50 per cent customer loss.”
“So, because of that, many employees who work in the food industry lost their jobs,” Sapmaz said.
According to Statistic Canada, employment at accommodation and food services in Ontario in one month declined from 391,500 to 316,900 between December 2021 and January 2022 as the Omicron wave of COVID hit the country.
Both Sapmaz and Bal agreed Ontario’s decision will positively affect their revenues by bringing in more customers, and they will be able to hire more workers.
“We will continue taking precautions like practising social distance and the mask requirement to protect our workers and customers,” Sapmaz said.