Ottawa bar owner ‘shocked’ as Ontario moves last call to 11 p.m. at bars, restaurants and nightclubs

OTTAWA — The owner of a popular bar in the ByWard Market says she’s shocked last call is now 11 p.m. at bars, restaurants and nightclubs in Ottawa and across Ontario.

The Ontario Government announced new tighter restrictions on restaurants and bars, and ordered strip clubs to close, in an effort to crackdown on “outbreak clusters” of COVID-19 cases across Ontario.

As of Saturday at 12:01 a.m., all food and drink establishments across Ontario are prohibited from selling alcohol after 11 p.m. Alcohol consumption is banned in all food and drink establishments after 12 a.m. until 9 a.m.  Ontario is also requiring all bar and restaurants to remain closed between 12 a.m. and 5 a.m., except for takeout and delivery.

“I was a little shocked by the news, also a bit confused,” said Shauna Bradley, owner of the Heart and Crown.

“I’m not sure what the three hour difference is going to make when we’re following all the guidelines, we’re super spaced out, we have everything distanced, we’re all wearing masks, we’re sanitizing like crazy.”

Mayor Jim Watson says there’s been no COVID-19 clusters connected to bars and restaurants in Ottawa, but the city will follow the new provincial directives.

“I’m not diminishing the fact that this is going to be a difficult challenge for bars and so on. I don’t know the rationale from the province because it was just announced, there may be other bars around the province where there’s a direct correlation,” said Watson, while speaking to the media an hour after Ontario announced the new measures.

“We haven’t seen that here in Ottawa, but at the end of the day I think we have to take the best advice from medical officials.”

Watson says City of Ottawa will follow the guidance from the Ontario Government, and Bylaw Services officers will enforce the new restrictions on bars and restaurants.

“These are certain restrictions on some industries that will have to close entirely or close earlier, but there’s still that opportunity obviously for restaurants to remain open, respect physical distancing and keep the tables apart,” said Watson.

“They’ll just have to close an earlier hour, which many restaurants in fact do close before 11 or midnight, it’s usually the bars and so on that stay open until 1 or 1:30 in the morning.”

Speaking on Newstalk 580 CFRA’s Ottawa Now with Kristy Camera, David Mangano of The Grand Pizzeria in the ByWard Market said he supports the Ontario government’s move.

“I think it’s a necessary step, I do agree with it. I think we’ve got to take small measures now, hopefully not a lockdown, but small measures to try and combat the spread of the virus,” said Mangano Friday afternoon.

“Maybe it will help calm things down a bit and keep us socially distanced, and keep the alcohol flowing a little less.”

Mangano admitted the new measures will not a significant impact on his business, saying they normally start winding down business between 11 p.m. and 12 p.m.

“A 12 o’clock closing for us isn’t the end of the world, but for nightclubs or bars that don’t really start picking up until 9 o’clock or 10 o’clock it will be disastrous for them.”

The new measures were announced as bars and restaurants in the City of Ottawa warned of a drop in business as the number of COVID-19 cases increased in Ottawa.

The Wellington Diner said on Twitter Friday morning that, sadly we have had to make our first layoff and we are evaluating on others. Business is down 50 per cent from the first two weeks of September.”

“Restaurants are not the problem. Never have been. Where you have strong management you will have a safe environment.”

Earlier this week, Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches said the majority of cases in Ottawa are linked to private gatherings and close contacts.

At the Heart and Crown, Bradley wondered where people will gather when bars and restaurants close at 12 a.m.

“From what I understand, the COVID cases are not coming from the bars and restaurants, so I just don’t know what this closing the restaurants and the bars three hours early is going to accomplish,” said Bradley

“My concern is when the bars close early, they go from a controlled environment to a house party somewhere, which is what I believe we’re trying to cut back on.”

Ontario announced the tighter restrictions on bars and restaurants ahead of the first long weekend of fall. Bradley said business is okay right now, but the weather could change that.

“We were doing decent business at night, half the business we were doing at normal times. But still people were coming out, we provided a safe environment,” said Bradley.

“We’re just about to lose our patios here, we’re going into winter. We’re trying to prepare on how we can maximize our sales in the safest way possible and it just feels like we’re being cut at the knees again.”

Back at the Grand Pizzeria, Mangano admits all businesses are concerned about a full lockdown like the spring.

“We’re all scared of that. That will be horrific to all small business if there’s another lockdown.”

The Ontario Government is also ordering all strip clubs to close effective 12:01 a.m. Saturday.

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