An organization representing some Ottawa business owners says retailers are trying to prepare for what could be another difficult time for shops after both the Ontario government and local public health officials implemented new COVID-19 restrictions to try to curb the spread of the Omicron variant.
Late last week, the province reintroduced 50 per cent capacity at restaurants, bars and retailers that came into effect Sunday. Ottawa Public Health also announced additional measures for restaurants and bars, requiring people be seated when eating or drinking and no more than six people are allowed per table. Those measures come into effect at 12:01 a.m. Monday.
"There's no lying about it. This is a hard hit," said Nathalie Carrier, executive director of the Vanier Business Improvement Area. "I don't think anybody was expecting it, especially not this quickly. Some people thought maybe we'll get through Christmas and then they'll put restrictions on."
She said while businesses already understand what it means to have only 50 per cent capacity, it feels like a blow to retailers who were hoping for a more normal holiday season considering the city's high vaccination rate.
Restrictions in Ottawa:
Capacity limited to 50 per cent at places such as shopping malls, grocery stores, pharmacies, hairdressers, salons, gymnasiums, bars and restaurants.
Maximum of six people per table at a restaurant or bar (comes into effect Monday).
Restaurants and bars will have to stop selling alcohol at 10 p.m. and close at 11 p.m., except for take-out and delivery orders.
Singing and dancing are not allowed.
Carrier says the fourth wave of COVID-19 is worrying because of the financial strain it will put on businesses and their owners.
"We were really hoping to have a little bit more hope, to fill up the pockets and the coffers that have been emptied, and in many cases re-mortgaged, in the last couple of years," she said.
"These are people that are incredibly resilient. Our businesses are incredibly resilient,. They have fought battle after battle after battle, change after change, and yet another punch in the gut right before Christmas. It's just really hard."
On the other hand, the owner of Bobby's Table, a restaurant on Montreal Road, is happy that the 50 per cent capacity limit is back.
"For me, it's better, it works better. The 50 per cent should have stayed. People could have gotten used to it," Robert LeBlanc told Radio-Canada.
Yet, he said he also feels for the restaurants that added staff in preparation for a busy holiday season.