ontario lockdown

Ontario regulator warns bars not to stay open late on New Year's Eve or else

The new lockdown rules enacted across Ontario earlier this month have posed yet another huge blow to businesses that were already struggling to recover from lengthy forced closures and stringent COVID-19 protocols, and also to customers who were finally getting used to a return to a somewhat normal way of life.

With bars and restaurants now operating under severely slashed capacity limits and far earlier last call and closing times, many have decided to simply shut down for the duration of the holidays, whether to help mitigate virus spread or because it's just not financially beneficial to remain open (or both).

The loss of holiday party bookings and profitable occasions like New Year's Eve also means even less reason to stay open through to the end of the year.

Now, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario has made it very clear that there will be absolutely no leeway for any establishment owners that were planning on sneakily staying open a little later to celebrate the dawn of 2022.

According to a news release from the regulatory body, compliance officials will be out in full force on December 31 to visit Ontario bars and restaurants and ensure that they are abiding by the latest public health orders — which include having to stop alcohol service by 10 p.m. sharp and close their doors to customers by 11 p.m., well before the countdown.

"Although the vast majority of Ontario's licensed establishments have been operating responsibly throughout the pandemic, the AGCO has had to take regulatory action against a number of establishments that have not, including the suspension or revocation of their liquor licence."

The commission also reminds patrons that they likewise need to respect the new directives and not give hospitality employees any hassle in their efforts to impose them, as frustrated as both parties may be about the situation.

Businesses can face very steep penalties for contravening the Reopening Ontario Act.

"Liquor licensed businesses have an important role to play in keeping communities safe and the hospitality sector open," the AGCO states in their release on Thursday.

"As the countdown to New Year's Eve approaches, anyone considering heading out to a bar or a restaurant should be aware of all public health measures in place, and not give establishment staff a difficult time for enforcing them," AGCO's registrar and CEO writes.

"And please remember, don't drive while impaired. Let's all have a safe and enjoyable night!"

Or at least, as safe and enjoyable as is possible under the circumstances, which may prove extremely difficult this year.

Lead photo by

Jack Landau

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