Sudbury restaurant owner is frustrated that some pubs are ignoring the pandemic rules

·3 min read

Some Sudbury business people are upset with the COVID-19 restrictions. They're not upset so much that restrictions are in place. They're more upset that some of their fellow businesses are ignoring the rules. They're worried that if more people are testing positive for the coronavirus, the province could get tougher with the restrictions as has happened in Southern Ontario.

Their names and the names of their businesses are not being identified for fear of public retribution.

"So what happens if we have to go back to Stage Two?" asked one business person with more than a hint of frustration. She said she was made aware of at least two restaurant-pubs in Sudbury where patrons who ignore physical distancing are "packed together shoulder to shoulder" and the masking rules are completely ignored.

The business owner said her complaint was not a "sour grapes" issue.

"I know there's enough business for all of us and I am happy to see people in business," she said.

Her concern for the Sudbury area businesses became reality for restaurant-owners in Toronto, Ottawa, York Region and Peel Region in mid-October when COVID-19 cases spiked in those parts of Ontario. Restrictions were moved from Stage Three to a modified Stage Two. It meant restaurants were restricted back to having outdoor dining areas only.

Businesses within the jurisdiction of PHSD went into Stage Two on June 12, 2020 and then advanced to the less restrictive Stage Three on July 17, 2020. It allowed for restaurant patrons to eat inside the restaurant as long as they practiced physical distancing and wore a mask when not sitting at their table.

The Sudbury business owner said her restaurant took a financial hit during the first pandemic lockdown in March and has been working hard to stay in business since then. She said even with the move to Stage Three, the restaurant has not been able to work at full capacity and several staff members were not able to return to work.

The business owner wanted to know if there was any enforcement of COVID-19 restrictions and where to file a complaint. Earlier this year, in response to an inquiry from Sudbury.Com, Greater Sudbury Police Service (GSPS) said it was not taking a proactive role in health enforcement.

"All COVID related calls are directed to 311 who then determines the appropriate agency to send the call to. In most cases, Police are not the first response as by-law Officers have the authority to respond to these types of calls (depending on the priority of the call and the time the call comes in). We work in collaboration with the City of Greater Sudbury to address these issues," said an email response from Kaitlyn Dunn, the corporate communications coordinator at GSPS.

"The bylaw department will certainly look into any concerns that residents have," said Shannon Dowling, a communications advisor with the City of Greater Sudbury. She said residents who have complaints can call the city's 311 number and pass on the information.

Dowling said in most instances, non-compliance issues will be enforced by bylaw officers. She said if there is an extreme situation requiring an immediate response, then police will be advised.

"There is a bit of a shared enforcement thing with Bylaw and the Greater Sudbury Police Service," Dowling explained.

She added that complaints related to the pandemic, public gatherings and other concerns are not new.

"Just since March, we received 580 complaints to Bylaw that were specific to gathering," said Dowling. Another 480 complaints were specific to businesses not adhering the COVID-19 safety guidelines.

Although she couldn't be specific, Dowling said two charges were laid in relation to the business complaints. Dowling said the main thrust of COVID-19 enforcement is community safety, awareness and education.

"There is a really strong focus on education. They really want people to understand what the rules are because oftentimes people don't know what they are," said Dowling.

Len Gillis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Sudbury.com