Here's why some restaurants in Toronto don't want to open their patios just yet
Patio season hit Toronto hard, fast and early this past weekend after Ontario announced some changes to it's COVID-19 response framework — key among them, a new rule that allows for outdoor dining at restaurants in grey-lockdown regions.
Enacted at the request of Toronto Mayor John Tory on behalf of struggling business owners and cooped-up residents, the changes effectively allow local bars and restaurants to keep their patios open for service as long as physical distancing, contact tracing, masking, household exclusivity and all other necessary public health measures are followed.
Little else has changed for Toronto, which will stay in the grey zone for at least two more weeks, but people do seem happy with their restored rights to spend time eating and drinking in front of restaurants.
Some people, anyway.
Restaurant owners aren't universally pleased with the decision — first and foremost because the province gave them less than a day to prepare.
I get why restaurants/bars are scrambling to open but considering case counts/variants....maybe a bad idea? Seems like another lockdown is coming anyway, so putting this kind of pressure on the industry (to prep, get staff in etc) only to take it away feels...thoughtless at best— Jen Agg (@TheBlackHoof) March 20, 2021
"Lol sorry but they gave us 24 HOURS NOTICE to open patios tomorrow...WHAT!!???" tweeted Toronto restauranteur Jen Agg on Friday evening following Ontario's modified grey zone announcement.
"I am not surprised as there have been MANY fumbles fundamentally rooted in gov having ZERO understanding of how restaurants work but wow. Honestly f*cking RUDE. And no. We wont be panicking to open."
Agg wrote that it's "no small feat to go from takeout mode to operational mode," pointing out that food needs to be prepped, sometimes well in advance.
"Our focaccia is a 5 day process! And you need cooks and servers...how in the actual f*ck could they not have just ASKED A RESTAURANT PERSON?" she continued.
"I feel like a better move would've been to just give a week's notice, restaurant people would have liked that."
I asked the only server at the restaurant where I picked up dinner tonight if they were opening patio tomorrow. She replied: “We don’t have any employees. They didn’t give us any notice.” I imagine lots of places are in same boat.— Mark Medley (@itsmarkmedley) March 20, 2021
There's also the looming threat of another widespread shutdown, which would force restaurants to once again close their patios, leaving them with a surprise surplus of food to sell and scheduled employees to pay.
The government has made clear that it won't hesitate to pull its pandemic "emergency brake" in Toronto (as it has already done in other jurisditions) if trends start deteriorating.
Some public health officials — including those on the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Panel — have even been recommending a complete three-week lockdown for hot spot regions like ours as variants of concern spread and full vaccinations are delayed.
This in mind, it's not hard to understand why a restaurant owner would be hesitant to go all out on patio service — for business reasons and for the safety of their employees and customers.
Despite the announcement allowing patios in #Toronto to open this weekend, we are postponing patio dining at the Manor for a bit longer.— Storm Crow Manor (@stormcrowmanor) March 21, 2021
We’ve been waiting to see you for too long; we want to do it safe & right.❤️
But we’re still open for takeout & delivery from 12pm daily! pic.twitter.com/ygYQgUZJWO
"As a restaurant owner, I truly feel for other businesses, however I think THIS DOESN'T REALLY FEEL RIGHT AT THIS TIME," continued the post, citing health and safety concerns. "And so, we will continue with TAKEOUTS and DELIVERY ONLY at LAN Restaurant."
Patios in Kensington Market were popping this weekend, but not every bar jumped on the opportunity to welcome customers back IRL.
"Somebody is probably going to ask the question and the answer is a hard no. Our patio is way too small, and the street is way too congested, and remember the daily COVID case count is still climbing!" announced Thirsty & Miserable early Saturday afternoon.
"One day the bar will reopen and it will be fun because everyone will be vaccinated and we will be allowed to talk to strangers. For now, enjoy any or all of these beers to go!"
This’ll last a week before we’re in lockdown again. Thanks for fucking up our summer again, #assholes.— Paul t. brooks (@Sal_Chicho) March 20, 2021
Business owners have been decidedly cordial in their requests for patio-seekers to stay away, but the same can't be said for outspoken people who disagree with the government's approach to this matter.
"'Oooh look! The weather is nice...guess the pandemic is over and we're all immune! Lets go crowd the patios!' said every covidiot in Toronto this weekend," tweeted one naysayer.
"THIRD WAVE IS ALREADY HERE. BUT NO. You selfish idiots need a beer on a patio."
"Enjoy it, I guess, this is going to cost us another whole summer," wrote another in response to footage of packed patios this weekend. "You don't support local restaurants by getting them all shut down for a second season."
It's too early to tell if the reopening of patios in Toronto, Peel and other grey zone regions will impact Ontario's overall case numbers — though it'll likely be difficult to discern either way, thanks to the simultaneous resumption of indoor dining at restaurants in orange and red zone regions.
Hector Vasquez at Storm Crow Manor
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