BARRIE, ONT. -- The City of Orillia is taking the Emergency Orders a step further with a unanimous vote by council to reduce big box stores' capacity.

Council voted to limit retail and grocery stores with a gross area greater than 20,000 square feet to a maximum of 250 customers at one time.

Mayor Steve Clarke said the new measures were necessary. "After receiving numerous complaints, speaking to concerned residents, and witnessing first-hand extremely large crowds within some of our large stores, it became very apparent that reduced capacity limits would create a safer shopping environment," Clarke said.

The revisions to the COVID-19 Emergency Measures Bylaw will be in place while Simcoe Muskoka is in the Red-Control designation and if the catchment areas reach the Grey-Lockdown zone.

The mayor said he hopes the new safety restrictions will prevent the city from further COVID-19 cases. "These reduced capacity limits will also hopefully keep our community from going into the Grey-Lockdown zone, which will have further detrimental impacts on our local economy."

The city said enforcement of the bylaw would be handled first through education, but failure to comply could result in fines up to $100,000 for a first offence.

The new measures take effect on Dec. 19 at 12:01 a.m. and impacts roughly 18 stores across the city.