plexiglass toronto

Toronto takeout restaurants are starting to protect their staff with plexiglass

Health precautions like masks, gloves, and sanitizers galore abound at Toronto's essential businesses, and stores are starting to add yet another cautionary measure to the list: Plexiglass

These transparent, acrylic walls — which, pre-coronavirus, most commonly graced the stations of tellers and currency exchange banks — are now popping up in food purveyors that have chosen to stay open amid COVID-19. 

Grocery stores and the check-in counters at Pearson Airport were among some of the first businesses to install them. 

Now, restaurants and food services — which are already strapped for cash as forced dine-in closures mean the industry is taking a massive hit — are investing in this extra layer of protectiong against community spread

Simon Blackwell at Blackbird Baking says he spent $1,500 in total for Ringer Contracting to source materials, cut, and install the barriers at both the bakery's locations in Kensington and Riverside last week.

The seven-foot-long Plexiglass, which runs across the service counters, is just a few millimetres thick, but it's enough to protect customers and employees from respiratory droplets, which are the primary method for the person-to-person spread of COVID-19.

"Of course that's a lot of money, especially with business being down as it is, well below 50 per cent of what we'd normally be doing in sales," says Blackwell.

The glass is just one of many measures Blackbird is already enforcing at its bakeries, from using gloves to limiting the number of customers in-store at a time, or adding 2-metre marks for those in line. 

Since then, Ringer Contracting has also installed barriers in businesses like Alimentari, Sanagan's Meat Locker, and Famiglia Baldassarre

But for those who can't afford the custom Plexiglass, or sneeze guards, or cast acryclic partitions — whatever you want to call them — there are still options. 

Matias Balmaceda, who co-owns the Chilean hot dog-slinging joint Completo, has decked out their original Leslieville location with Plexiglass that wraps around the entirety of their customer-facing counter. 

For businesses who are facing massive rents and don't have more than a grand to spend on Plexiglass, good news: Balmaceda says he spent $100, before tax. 

Ordering from a supplier in Scarborough, who cut the Plexiglass sheet in half, he installed the pieces himself by drilling holes and suspending them from the ceiling. 

"It was super cheap and easy to install," he says. "For anyone that wants to do it themselves, hanging it is the most elegant way... It's very transparent and it actually looks kind of sleek."

 As of right now, the government has yet to announce any mandatory measures for essential businesses that are still serving customers takeout, but Balmaceda says that the industry at large is playing it by ear. 

"People are just kind of learning from each other," he says. "Businesses seeing what other businesses are doing is a large part of the process right now." 

Lead photo by

Blackbird Bakery

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