WINDSOR, ONT. -- The City of Windsor’s plans to re-install the ice at the Lanspeary Park outdoor rink are set to put an end to a pandemic-inspired initiative that has proven to be a reprieve for local food vendors.

On Thursday, Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens announced an agreement to use the rink for an outdoor food hall between the city and WindsorEats would be extended through to the end of November but, the co-owner of the hospitality group is upset the city won’t extend the deal through the more lucrative holiday season.

“December was really key in utilizing the space and getting people excited for the holidays, especially now that Bright Lights was cancelled, this space could’ve been transformed into a gorgeous Winter Garden,” said Adriano Ciotoli, co-owner and co-founder of WindsorEats.

Ciotoli says the outdoor food hall has been a hit to help food vendors decimated by cancelled festivals and public health restrictions due to the pandemic.

Over 13 operating days, Ciotoli says vendors have seen $81,000 in spending at the Lanspeary Park outdoor food hall.

“From the get-go, we had an incredible response from the general public,” said Ciotoli, adding the support has been vital for vendors. “They’ve actually been able to hire new people as a result, not just keep themselves going but have been busy enough to bring in new employees which is beneficial to everyone.”

In backing council’s decision to ice over the rink, the mayor points to the need for outdoor activities over the winter months to help residents relieve stress at a difficult time.

“We are in the middle of the second wave [of the COVID-19 pandemic] and what we need to do is find ways to allow people to get outside, to have exercise to … try to alleviate issues around mental health and skating is one of the things that allows people to do just that,” said Dilkens, in an interview with CTV News.

 Dilkens says the city stepped up to provide a free venue for the food hall initiative in support of small businesses and points to the agreement extension as further evidence of the city’s commitment.

While Ciotoli credits the city for moving quickly and is thankful for its partnership, he says the move to bring back the ice will put livelihoods at risk.

“We really feel with other options to skate outdoors, like at Charles Clark Square downtown, then, in the long run, the bigger benefit is to be able to support the small businesses in the community by continuing on with the outdoor food hall,” said Ciotoli.

The mayor sees it as “unfair to the residents” to not provide ice skating in a public park and says council has made its decision.

“Council has agreed to put ice in at Lanspeary Park and that’s what we intend to do and that is the council resolution that we have,” said Dilkens.

Ciotoli notes at least one councillor has approached him to find an alternate location for the food hall but points to the Lanspeary Park rink as a uniquely positioned venue already setup to provide power and shelter from the elements for events.

According to Ciotoli, because November is typically a down month for restaurant sales, this coming weekend is likely to be the last outdoor food hall, scheduled from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday.