Restaurants and theaters are preparing for the first round of reopening on Monday
The Ontario government will begin pulling the province out of its latest lockdown on Monday.
Restaurants, cinemas, meeting rooms and event spaces will be allowed to reopen at 50% capacity. Sports venues and concert halls will also reopen at 50% capacity or a limit of 500 people, whichever is lower.
At On The Rocks in Calabogie, Ontario, a restaurant that just opened on the shores of Calabogie Lake last summer, they’re ready to welcome diners inside again and get back to business as usual.
“We just had takeout as usual during lockdown,” says Steefan Gustafson, managing director of On The Rocks. “Then this opportunity came up and we jumped on it.”
Gustafson refers to the intense cold and snow that has blanketed the region in recent weeks. With their patio completely covered in snow, the restaurant dug tables and bar tops out of the snow to create a “polar bar”, which brought them new income during the last week of confinement.
“I think people just want to get out and move around, and as you can see from our landscape, it’s a great place to do that,” Gustafson says, acknowledging the view of the mountains across the lake. . “We had people coming from Montreal, people coming from Ottawa, it was just awesome.”
Another pressure that should be lifted for understaffed restaurants is that of contact tracing when indoor dining returns on January 31.
“We’re always going to be 50% inside,” Gustafson says. “So having this opportunity is a bit like having a fifth room in a house. We can take advantage of it, our guests can take advantage of it.”
Another boost on Monday will be the return of movie theaters, with guests once again allowed to consume food and drink while enjoying a show.
Before cinemas closed completely in January and food and drink could not be sold to moviegoers, Kevin Marshall, owner of the O’Brien Theater in Arnprior, says it was actually costing him money to put on a movie without snack bar revenue.
“The snack bar revenue percentage is about 50 percent of the total gross,” Marshall told CTV News. “But it’s actually about 80% of our actual profit.”
Over the past month, locals have supported the theater by buying popcorn as a take-out option. But before the lockdown, Marshall says the appeal of going to the movies without popcorn dropped drastically.
“There were people coming in saying, ‘Hmm, can’t you buy popcorn? No, I’m not going to watch it here,'” Marshall remarks. “So we know it’s affected us tremendously.”
Monday marks the first of three stages of reopening for Ontario. The province plans another round of restrictions to be lifted on February 21, then again on March 14, unless there are drastic changes in the pandemic.