indoor dining

Toronto celebrity chef says Doug Ford needs to reopen indoor dining because of rain

Ontario residents have been eagerly taking full advantage of bar and restaurant patios since they finally reopened on June 11 after being shuttered for all but two weeks since November 2020, but the city's weather hasn't been the most conducive to outdoor dining as of late.

Multiple thunderstorms and even a random bout of hail have taken place in the last week alone, reviving calls for indoor dining to be permitted once again, at least during inclement circumstances that prevent outdoor terraces from operating.

Among those proponents of further loosening lockdown restrictions ASAP are celebrity chef and industry advocate Mark McEwan, who is asking Premier Doug Ford to amend current restrictions to better help small businesses that are trying to recover from the shocking blow the health crisis and lengthy forced closures have dealt them.

"Doug Ford needs to understand that restaurants need indoor dining to supplement for rain bursts which are happening daily. Set up, rain bust! Set up, rain bust!" McEwan tweeted to his 64k followers on Saturday, garnering hundreds of retweets and more than 1,200 likes.

"You have been wildly unfair to restaurants, this lockdown needs to end."

This certainly isn't the first time McEwan and others from the hospitality sector have made calls for Ford to reconsider stringent measures, which have lent Ontario — Toronto in particular — the nickname of the lockdown capital of the world.

Last October, the premier publically acknowledged the restaurateur's comments regarding lockdown during a press conference after indoor dining was shuttereed. It has since to reopen.

"It's really challenging. We have some of our areas tented, but most of them not, and it shuts you down. It's just one extra level of pressure and stress that [the government] hasn't thought through," McEwan, who's behind establishments such as such as One RestaurantFabbrica and McEwan Fine Foods tells blogTO of running a patio amid Toronto's erratic weather.

"There are many, many restaurants that don't even have patios as an option, so these poor operations are really floundering. It's completely unfair."

In McEwan's opinion, the province should have never prohibited dining outdoors, which has proven to be safe, and eateries should already be permitted to host patrons inside to at least 50 per cent capacity.

"It astonishes me that the government actually believes that staying closed is even an option any longer. You'd think that there would be a greater sense of urgency... we're the most locked down of anyone in the G7 anywhere," he says, adding that he expects many more business closures are on the horizon, especially after government subsidies cease.

"They have just so mistreated the food service business — try to tell me that my restaurant at 50 per cent capacity with all sorts of protocols in place is not safer than a Costco or a Walmart."

As per the provincial government's framework — which is in line with Ford's aphorism "inside bad, outside good" — indoor dining is slated to return as part of Step 3, which Ontario is due to move into on July 20, though we surpassed the vaccination rates to move forward two weeks ago.

Also returning in Step 3 are, at long last, movie theatres, museums and galleries, gyms, casinos, and other indoor operations, all with capacity limits and other health and safety practices in place.

Meanwhile, the post-Step 3 plan is currently in the works, Ford has said, and will be revealed over the next few weeks.

Lead photo by

Fareen Karim at Spaccio

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