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Toronto bars and restaurants frustrated they're forced to keep changing plans

Rules around whether bars and restaurants are allowed to open in Toronto have been changing quite often as of late, leaving many owners somewhat frustrated. 

City officials announced earlier this week that Toronto will be moving in to the Red-Control level of Ontario's COVID-19 framework. Under this particular level, indoor dining - along with gyms and fitness studios, meeting/event spaces, and casinos/gaming establishments - was supposed to reopen beginning Saturday. 

However, on Tuesday, Toronto's Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Eileen de Villa confirmed that indoor bars and restaurants will actually remain closed for at least another month.

While the news comes as COVID-19 numbers continue to rise, restaurant and bar owners are understandably now worried about business and frustrated with the constant change. 

For the owners of The Enchanted Poutinerie, Carmine Riossi and Enzo Cammisuli, this is especially so since they only opened in June 2019 and then had to shut down for four months during the first wave of COVID-19.

Besides this, Riossi and Cammisuli said that when indoor dining shut down again about a month ago, they had to close.

"And now, here we go again. They told us we were reopening and now, all of a sudden, we bought a bunch of stock this week because we were about to be very busy indoors, and now we're stuck with all this stock and they just hit us again," they told blogTO, adding that they've lost all 10 of their employees.

While Riossi and Cammisuli said that they understand the importance of health and safety, they don't quite understand why restaurants are being attacked.

"Why are they going after the restaurants when someone catches COVID on a TTC bus or at a mall," they said, emphasizing that they make sure to keep their establishment completely sanitized and socially distanced. 

"At this point our pain is kind of numb. We don't feel it, we're not sad anymore."

Now that indoor dining won't be reopening, Riossi and Cammisuli are trying to make the most of the sitution by donating their excess food to homeless shelters and people in need.

Patrick Marzouk, owner of Regulars and Figures, similarly said that it's frustrating because he sanitizes his restaurant constantly and pivots to every new rule and restriction. 

"My restaurant, where I'm wiping down the table every time someone touches it, everytime someone uses the washroom it's completely disinfected, every table is six feet apart, we have contract tracing, but there's no contract tracing in a mall," he said to blogTO.

"To me, restaurants are one of the most controlled environments."

While Mazouk said that he completely understands the dangers of COVID-19 and wants everyone to be safe, he also expressed his concern for the mental health of business owners as well as patrons. 

"It reaches a certain breaking point," he said.

Marzouk also pointed out that business was largely effected when hours were reduced from 11 p.m. to 9 p.m.

"80 per cent of our revenue comes after the hours of 8 o'clock," he said.

"We already invested in heaters and tents for the outdoor dining that I would actually prefer to keep outdoor dining until 11 p.m. then go inside until 9 p.m."

The ban is currently in place for the next 28 days.

Lead photo by

Fareen Karim

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