Ottawa businesses wait and watch as Quebec neighbours reopen

·3 min read
While some businesses like restaurants are allowed to be partially open in Ottawa, others like hair salons are still closed. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press - image credit)
While some businesses like restaurants are allowed to be partially open in Ottawa, others like hair salons are still closed. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Businesses in Ottawa remain just a stone's throw away from Gatineau, but they feel a world's away from working under the same loosened public health restrictions.

Quebec Premier François Legault announced a further loosening of restrictions across the province earlier this week. Starting Monday the entire province will move to the green zone, the lowest level of alert under the province's colour-coded system.

Under these measures, restaurants are allowed to seat 10 people per table indoors, personal care services are allowed to open, and fitness centres are allowed to open with some restrictions.

Jenna Ladd, owner of Iron North Fitness, said she tries not to compare her current situation with her colleagues on the other side of the Ottawa River, but she remains frustrated.

"At this point it's almost laughable that they're open and we're not considering the proximity of it, and considering people are just going to go over there anyway," she said.

Ontario could move to the second phase of its reopening plan on June 30, two days ahead of schedule, as the province has surpassed the required 70 per cent of adults with one vaccine dose, as well as 20 per cent fully vaccinated.

That is still one week away, which seems like an eternity for businesses like salons who have had to remain closed.

Gyms, meanwhile, can't reopen indoors until the third phase, which is currently set to take place in late July.

Ladd says she understands Quebec's numbers are better than Ontario's, but would prefer more parallel measures for areas like Ottawa that straddle provincial borders.

"I could throw a rock and hit the Quebec side and get more services," she said.

Justin Tang/The Canadian Press
Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

Clients impatient waiting for Ontario salons

Lydia Nganga, owner of Lydia's Beauty Salon in Ottawa, said some of her clients have become impatient waiting for her to reopen.

"I've been getting calls from clients every single day. They've even gotten mad at me," said Nganga, adding some couldn't wait and crossed the river for personal care services.

Nganga has tried to understand the province's decisions to limit indoor services, but admitted watching businesses like restaurants and retail stores partially reopen has been difficult.

"Everywhere is busy, but the only thing that's not busy is my business," she said.

Need to recoup lost revenue

Indoor dining also remains shut until the third phase of Ontario's reopening plan, which has left business owners like Marc Doiron impatiently hoping to bounce back.

"The amount of revenue that we've lost in the last year and a half needs to be made up," said Doiron, owner of Ottawa restaurants Town and Citizen.

"Of course I'd love to have the business but we're just not able to get that right now."

Takeout and patios have helped keep his businesses alive, and Doiron says his staff will need time to adjust to accommodate indoor dining again.

He doesn't mind watching how things go in Quebec.

"Of course I'd love to be fully open but I also want to be cautious," he said. "So it gives us a chance to maybe observe what's going on on the Quebec side."

Ladd also wants to know what type of public health restrictions gym patrons will face when they can reopen, such as masks and a maximum capacity.

"We can't forecast these things," she said. "We do our best but it's like just pulling out of darkness."

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