Could Toronto’s patios open before June 14? The Ford government is not ruling it out
|Toronto Star 31 May 2021 at 18:54|
While the seats have thus far been empty thanks to COVID-19 lockdowns, director of operations Trevor Brodie is hoping brew pub staff will be able to pour pints for customers within the next week or two.
“We’d normally have 1,000 people in here on Leaf game nights during the playoffs. There’d be 300 on the patio alone,” said Brodie of the Queens Quay pub during the pre-COVID era.
While the provincial government has said it’s aiming to start Ontario’s three-stage reopening plan June 14, Health Minister Christine Elliott hasn’t explicitly ruled out the possibility that Stage 1 — which includes patio dining — could start a bit sooner.
“I think it’s a good omen they’re letting at least a few people into the game. I’m also really optimistic because of the numbers and the science,” said Brodie, noting Ontario announced 916 new COVID cases Monday, the first time in months the new case count had been below 1,000. More than two-thirds of Ontario adults have had at least one shot of COVID vaccine.
“It really feels like things are heading in the right direction. I really think that when we open back up on the 14th, or maybe even before that, that we won’t be closing back up again,” Brodie said.
James Rilett, vice-president of the Restaurants Canada industry association, is also hopeful that Stage 1 could come sooner than anticipated.
“The government has indicated that they are trying to open as soon as possible. They have emphasized that the intent is to reopen the week of the 14th or earlier. We are obviously hoping that means we will see the opening plans to start next week,” Rilett said, adding that having Leaf fans at Scotiabank Arena might be a positive sign.
“It shows, hopefully, that the government is willing to revisit decisions that it’s made,” said Rilett, adding that the restaurant industry has been one of the hardest hit sectors of the economy during COVID. Restaurants Canada research said the food service industry in Ontario lost an estimated $10.3 billion in revenue from the end of March 2020 through the end of March 2021 because of lockdowns.
Many Ontario restaurants have shut down for good already, either declaring bankruptcy or simply walking away from mounting piles of debt, Rilett added.
“It’s easily in the thousands. But I don’t think we’ll know the true total until we’re open again,” he said of the permanent closures.
For Cafe Diplomatico owner Rocco Mastrangelo, wage and rent subsidies have been vital to keeping the Little Italy landmark going.
“If we didn’t have the subsidies, we’d have lost the business by now,” said Mastrangelo, adding that having sports fans on one of Toronto’s best-known patios again would be welcome news.
“It would mean the world to us. Not just for the money, but for the mental health aspects of getting back to normal. Seeing customers, seeing staff. It makes a difference, you know?” he said.
With the European soccer championship starting June 11 and South America’s Copa America kicking off June 13, Mastrangelo could soon be serving sports fans morning, noon and night.
He’s hoping that once the patio opens up it will be for good. Earlier this spring, restaurants were allowed to have patio dining for the first time in months. But it was a short-lived reprieve from lockdowns as the province enacted a stay-at-home order just two weeks later.
“I’m really, really hoping that we don’t have to close again after this, because the last time that happened it was a disaster. We had to spend money on inventory, we had to get staff back. It was awful,” said Mastrangelo.