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ontario reopening

Non-essential retail stores are finally reopening in Ontario and here are the rules

Ontario residents can officially celebrate getting to return to their favourite local shops at long last now that "non-essential" retail stores have been given the green light to begin welcoming customers in-person later this week as part of Step 1 of the province's Roadmap to Reopening.

As of 12:01 a.m. on Friday, June 11, the "non-essential" outlets that were forced to shutter provincewide in April after resuming operations in some regions for just one month will be allowed to open their doors once more.

Unfortunately for some businesses, the change only applies to stores with their own street-facing entrances, meaning that those in shopping malls will stay closed for now, save for the same pickup and delivery services they're already offering.

Back in the province's old colour-coded reopening system, "non-essential"  stores were only authorized to open in red, orange, yellow and green zones until February, when Premier Doug Ford updated grey zone regulations to include such retail with 25 per cent capacity limits (compared to "essential" retail's 50 per cent) and other health measures in place.

But then the provincewide emergency shutdown happened on April 3, and though all retail was initially permitted, stores that primarily sold goods that weren't food or personal hygiene products were eventually closed again on April 7.

This time around, retailers deemed "non-essential" will have to reduce the number of customers inside even further than the last time they were open, to only 15 per cent. Supermarkets, pharmacies, big box stores and the like will continue to function with 25 per cent caps in place.

As always, these businesses will be expected to operate under strict COVID-19 protocols as far as social distancing, sanitization, mask mandates, etc.

Since in-person shopping will now resume at all types of stores, big box outlets will also thankfully no longer be required to rope off "non-essential" items — which at some stores included many necessary household products, as well as art and office supplies while people were learning and working from home — meaning things will be looking a whole lot more normal.

Along with getting to patronize more retailers, residents will also be able to enjoy the patios at bars and restaurants, outdoor fitness classes, day camps for kids, zoos and other outdoor sites, and increased gathering limits of 10 people outside.

Lead photo by

Chris McPhee

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