Ontario restaurants have no COVID-19-related indoor capacity restrictions to adhere to for the first time in over a year as of Monday, October 25.
Restaurants, bars, and other food and drink establishments, as well as many other settings where patrons/customers are required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination, are now free to operate without capacity limits.
Until now, Ontario restaurants had been forced to limit their capacity to ensure patrons could maintain a two-metre distance.
Premier Doug Ford said on October 22 that proof-of-vaccination requirements will start to be lifted early next year, as long as COVID-19 trends don’t become concerning. That process will begin with restaurants, bars, gyms, and casinos in January.
These are the next steps in the provincial government’s target timeline of lifting all pandemic restrictions by the end of March 2022.
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) said it was “encouraged and relieved” that the province is lifting capacity restrictions, per Yahoo! Finance. CFIB called it “a crucial step towards economic recovery and levels the playing field between big and small business.”
“We hope this puts an end to government policies that favour large businesses, like big box stores or large sporting venues, over Ontario’s small businesses,” CFIB president Dan Kelly said in a statement.
The Tourism Industry Association of Ontario added its thanks and welcomed the news as “as a major step forward for tourism’s recovery in Ontario.”
Restaurants Canada also said it welcomes the decision.
“Since the start of the pandemic, restaurants have always done whatever is necessary to keep their customers and employees safe,” said a statement from the association. “It was tough for our members to see packed arenas at the same time they were forced to operate half-empty seating areas.”
Restaurants Canada had said in a statement earlier this month that the apparent suggestion, based on comparative restrictions in different settings, “that there is less risk in a 20,000-seat arena with people sitting shoulder to shoulder, unmasked and screaming than people quietly eating in a restaurant runs counter to every principle of preventing super spreader events with large crowds.”
However, both Restaurants Canada and CFIB stressed that more government support for the industry is needed.
Restaurants Canada renewed its call for the provincial government to provide additional support for the hard-hit foodservice industry in light of the additional costs and revenue losses that restaurants have incurred from implementing the vaccine passport system.
CFIB President Kelly added that “we aren’t out of the woods yet.”
“As the federal government begins to pull back its wage and rent supports from many businesses, the Ontario government needs to step up and help small firms if we want to see a rapid economic recovery,” he concluded.