BARRIE, ONT. -- Simcoe County business owners and their supporters made their voices heard in a pair of demonstrations Saturday.

Protesters in Barrie and Collingwood spoke out about the way small businesses have been teated through the pandemic.

"There's no reason why small business owners can't operate safely within guidelines," said Stefano Agostino, owner of P_zza on Dunlop Street in Barrie.

Simcoe County will emerge from a week-long lockdown on Monday, shifting to the red zone of Ontario's re-opening framework.

Many among the 300 people gathered in the cold at Meridian Place said that's a start but want decision-makers to take a different approach moving forward.

"I have hired employees and laid them off a week after I hired them to bring them back to then lay them off again," one business owner told the crowd.

That inconsistency and a blanket approach to the shutdowns has left some small business owners fearing moving forward.

Ryan Hawkes owns 24/7 Athletic Kulture in Barrie. He says his gym logged 52,000 workouts over 12 weeks with zero cases of COVID-19.

"We need to head into the point where we can function our businesses safely and also open them back up, so we are not only profitable but we

can survive this but get through this as a community."

While the provincial government recently re-tooled restrictions to allow most small businesses to open through lockdowns, frustration remains.

"I really believe that the cure is worse than the disease," said Virginia Stewart Love.

Stewart Love is a farmer whose business has dried up with restaurants ordering less with indoor dining restricted.

"This is lasting longer than everyone initially anticipated," said pizza shop owner Jaimie Costa. We need to reevaluate the way we're handling it so that health--physical health, and mental health-- is supported across the board."