'We don't like turning people away,' Restaurant owners want capacity limits removed
Restaurant owners across Simcoe County anxiously await news from Premier Doug Ford that would put them on an even playing field with large venues with no capacity limits.
Hog and Penny Pub owner Paul Raymond said his Orillia business reported roughly $100,000 in losses because he's had to cut the number of patrons allowed indoors in half.
"Everyone is vaccinated. Everybody that comes through the door, all the staff, it's a bubble of vaccinated people. So how much better can we get it?" Raymond asked.
Like many business owners, Raymond is frustrated with the differing treatment for small businesses like his and big facilities, like the ACC or Rogers Centre, that are now allowed to be at full capacity.
Raymond said he's frustrated that he has had to refuse patrons entry.
"Thursday nights are a trivia night. Big, very popular. We will turn as many people away as we have inside, and those are paying customers," he added.
Just down the road from the pub is Angela Brown's 125 Breakfast Club.
The small eatery's seating capacity is down from 32 to 24.
"As the weather changes, we need indoor seating, so as a small business owner, the more, the merrier. We don't like turning people away," she said.
Brown said it's unfair that the government has drawn a line between restaurants and larger operations.
"I think it's time," she said. "This has been going on long enough."
The customer caps also impact most gyms and fitness centres.
While the staff at CrossFit in Orillia hope the restrictions lift for the industry as a whole, owner Matt Spencer said his is one facility that isn't planning to return to big numbers indoors.
Even though his centre can hold up to 22 people under the fire code, Spencer said too many people in the small space could get crowded. "So we operate with classes of up to 12 people, and that allows for more than appropriate physical distancing."
Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman threw his support behind the restaurant sector with a letter to Ford urging the premier to lift capacity limits for an already struggling industry.
The mayor added that if limits are eased for the more than 400 restaurants in the city, the province should offer new financial support for those impacted.