Eastern Ontario businesses struggle with decision to stay open or close

·3 min read
Eastern Ontario businesses struggle with decision to stay open or close

Non-essential business owners in eastern Ontario are struggling to decide whether or not to stay open under the province's new restrictions.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford declared a second state of emergency Tuesday and announced a slate of new restrictions in an effort to bring COVID-19 under control, including a stay-at-home order that came into effect Thursday at 12:01 a.m.

It requires anyone to remain at home with the exception of leaving for essential purposes.

However, all non-essential retail stores, including hardware stores, alcohol retailers and those offering curbside pickup or delivery are allowed to open between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m.

Jordan Kennie, owner of Picnic Cafe in Perth, Ont., said those rules contradict each other, potentially encouraging people to leave their homes for non-essential reasons.

"[The announcement] gave us no direction except stay home but still go to a restaurant and get takeout, but stay home. But you can go and get curbside pickup but stay home and I just I feel like nothing changed," Kennie said.

"If we're looking at 6,000 cases a day in Ontario as a projection, then a hard decision needed to be made."

Now Kennie said she's unsure what she'll do with her business, having already laid off three staff.

Kennie said she will evaluate her sales through Thursday with the stay-at-home order in effect and make a decision about if she will continue to stay open on Friday.

WATCH | Perth cafe may close out of caution:

Businesses trying to feed families, pay rent

Naj Peterson, co-owner of clothing retail store Stomping Ground in Ottawa, said he and his business partner have decided to stay open for curbside pickup, with staff on leave and operating with reduced hours.

"We'd be in there regardless packaging orders and getting them shipped out. So we figured we might as well accommodate however many clients feel comfortable coming out to pick up an item," Peterson said.

"We read the guidelines very carefully. There's no stipulation that non-essential businesses need to be closed for pickup."

WATCH | Business confusion as new rules begin:

As for whether remaining open was the responsible thing to do, Peterson said "it's a double-edged sword."

On one hand, limiting interactions is probably better off for the community, he said.

"But at the same time, it's really hard for me to tell someone who's trying to feed their family or pay their rent to not open if the government's allowing them to open."

Rules hard to keep up with: Wellington West BIA

Dennis Van Staalduinen, executive director of the Wellington West Business Improvement Area, said what's been most difficult for businesses in that area is how frequently the province is changing the rules.

He said the rules were predictable under the colour-coded pandemic system introduced back in November, but has since been "thrown out the window."

"[There's been] at least two changes since then that have been from a completely different rulebook," Van Staalduinen said.