WINDSOR, ONT. -- Businesses in Windsor-Essex are hoping the ‘buy local’ movement pans out as new restrictions compound a difficult year.

On Monday, the region moved to Ontario’s ‘Red-Control’ category of COVID-19 restrictions and by this point in the pandemic, businesses are relying on local dedication to keep the lights on.

“It seems most of it is unchartered territory for a lot of us,” said Kristian Neill, the general manager of Fionn Maccool’s in downtown Windsor. “You try to do your best to keep your head above water.”

For Neill, the pandemic has led to reduced hours for staff and a pivot to takeout and catering services to offset lost dine-in revenue.

But, with new restrictions limiting dine-in service even further — allowing a maximum of 10 patrons per restaurant indoors — Neill says business is tighter than he’s ever seen it before.

“Do I want to say that we’re in the black every day — we are not,” said Neill.

Enforcement blitz

As the new restrictions roll out, the City of Windsor wrapped its first COVID-19 enforcement blitz.

A total of 23 charges were laid as a result of the blitz this past week, including $880 fines as by-law enforcement officers followed up on 21 complaints and conducted 95 proactive checks.

According to Bill Tetler, the manager of by-law enforcement, enforcement will continue to ensure businesses are adhering to the Reopening Ontario Act.

“Moving forward, I suggest that these businesses frequently check the Ontario government’s website or the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit’s website for the guidelines depending on what colour code tier we are in,” said Tetler.

Of the charges, 10 were for failure to have a safety plan, 11 for failure to wear masks, one for a lack of signage and another charge for a failure to observe physical distancing.

Buy local

The continued restrictions inspired McGregor’s Shantelle Rayner to launch the Wicked Wonder Box subscription service to support local businesses in the holistic healing sector.

Rayner says support for local businesses is vital to ensure they survive the public health measures.

“I think everybody is just kind of standing up and saying, ‘enough is enough,’” said Rayner. “Let’s start supporting these small businesses that are local people because they’re the ones that really need it.”

The box service, which offers different calming creams and salts, includes 14 local partners according to Rayner who are working to supplement their income with a home business.

“I thought this was the best time to support those little mamma and papa businesses,” said Rayner.

The hard-hit hospitality sector feels particularly aggrieved as restrictions consistently target public gathering spaces.

“I think it’s unfortunate that a lot of these new cases seem to be from schools but, schools remain open and restaurants seem to be punished,” said Neill.

While Fionn Maccool’s, like many other bars and restaurants, is relying on takeout and catering services to offset lost dine-in revenue, Neill says that still has left the books tight at the end of the month.

“Please, if you can, support your local businesses because they’re going to need it come Christmas time,” said Neill.