It's been over a week since Ontario lifted capacity limits for indoor dining and gyms, and owners are keen to see a business boon.
Scott Paines, owner of NPNG Fitness in Virgil, hopes the lifted restrictions will boost consumer confidence in getting gym memberships.
“Lockdown stopped people from coming and it stopped people from wanting to join the gym, too,” Paines said.
“Because they’re like, ‘Oh, what if I get a six-month membership and there’s another lockdown? I waste my money.’ ”
Paines noted it was the community in town and his loyal members that carried him through multiple lockdowns.
“We’re gonna hold to ourselves, we’re gonna keep ourselves up and the town really does kind of support each other and generally I like that about Niagara-on-the-Lake,” he said.
“All my members stuck around. They were all really, really loyal.”
He said the pandemic put a triple whammy of problems on the backs of gym owners.
“It enticed people to quit their gyms and work out at home and it prevented people from applying for memberships,” he said.
On top of that, Paines didn’t qualify for any government assistance.
“The government didn’t help at all. I didn’t get any assistance from the government at all because I didn’t qualify,” Paines said.
“It was basically just me on my own and the government didn’t care.”
He said the gym is still open despite it all.
“I like to give the government a little slap in the face and say, ‘We’re still here.’”
Other than enticing non-members to join gyms, he said the relaxed capacity restrictions haven’t affected his day-to-day operations much.
“It didn’t really affect us too much because we’re not a huge location,” Paines said in an interview.
He said the gym has been able to accommodate all its customers and maintain pandemic restrictions since being allowed to reopen earlier this summer.
But he hopes more people will start applying for memberships again.
Bricks & Barley general manager David McDonald said the eased capacity restrictions make organizing the restaurant a little easier.
“We’ve been busy. It’s good news. Let’s hope we keep going that way,” McDonald said.
He said staff had measured the available floor space in the building and calculated the number of indoor patrons allowed.
Removing the hassle of counting people at the door and ensuring there is proper distance between all tables will ease day-to-day headaches for staff, he said.
He also noted the relaxed restrictions come in handy when the weather is lousy – like it was last week.
“We could take in more people and honour more reservations because it was crappy outside,” he said.
The province introduced QR codes for people to demonstrate their vaccine status for businesses requiring it.
McDonald said that hasn’t been very helpful.
“It’s easier to just physically check people’s vaccine passports,” he said.
Phones can be slow to load or operate while a physical copy of the passport and photo I.D. suffer no such limitations, he said.
Last month, Bricks & Barley closed briefly because a staff member caught COVID outside of work, McDonald said.
But the manager said he will not cut any corners when it comes to ensuring the health and safety of his staff and patrons.
“We aren’t taking any risks. We said, ‘We are going to make sure everyone gets tested in house and once all the tests come back negative we’ll reopen.’ And that’s what we did.”
Evan Saunders, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Lake Report