Windsor bars and restaurants rolling with the punches after latest restrictions announced
WINDSOR, ONT. -- Bar owners and restauranteurs in Windsor are trying to turn lemons into lemonade after being hit with the latest restrictions by the Ontario government.
On Friday, Premier Doug Ford announced new restrictions which rollback recent gains those in the hospitality industry experienced under Stage 3 of the province’s COVID-19 re-opening plan.
“It’s 2020. I’m a nightclub guy serving coffee, the [Toronto Blue] Jays have made the playoffs, things are a little weird — but, we’re going to make it work,” said Renaldo Agostino, owner of the Turbo Espresso Bar in downtown Windsor.
After Windsor-Essex became the final region in Ontario to enter Stage 3, allowing for dine-in service at bars and restaurants for the first time in months, Ford surprised the industry by announcing new rules which will immediately force an earlier close time of midnight and move up last call for alcohol sales by three hours from 2 a.m. to 11 p.m. as of Saturday, Sept. 26.
Strip clubs are also being forced to close as part of the new measures.
Agostino was initially disappointed by the decision but, the veteran of the Windsor nightlife scene believes the best can be made of a bad situation.
“Business was better when last call was at 1 a.m. and I think what’s going to happen here ... is we’re still allowed to open, we’re still allowed to operate, people are just going to come out earlier,” he said.
While the restrictions are most impactful for bars and strip clubs, restauranteurs are also worried about the message the restrictions send.
“If you ask me where the stress is, the stress is all over the place,” said Imad Najjar, co-owner of Mazaar Lebanese Cuisine.
Najjar says the new restrictions will force his south Windsor restaurant to end alcohol sales an hour earlier on the busy Friday and Saturday service nights but, the more worrying trend is that regulations are becoming more restrictive instead of more relaxed.
“The sad part is while you’re planning to open up, you’re realizing that you’re the first person to close down because it’s like, you’re last in and you’re first out,” he said.
The new restrictions, aimed at limiting the spread of COVID-19 among young people, may also put jobs at risk.
“Paying 12 people yesterday made me pretty proud because I’m sure those 12 people really appreciate it and who could’ve imagined during these times you could bring on people and take care of them,” said Agostino. “Now, I’ve got to look at it and say I can’t supply these people with the amount of hours that I used to.”
Establishments are required to be closed as of 12 a.m. and remain closed until at least 5 a.m. except for takeout.
The new directive also requires businesses to comply with any advice, instructions or recommendations issued by the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health concerning COVID-19 screening, including for those who would enter the premises.