An embattled Premier Doug Ford looking for good news to share finally found some last week, announcing Ontario's Roadmap to Reopening while also giving the green light for many outdoor recreational facilities to re-open just in time to capitalize on a long Victoria Day weekend.
The good news for golfers, tennis, pickleball, and basketball players, boaters, and more came as the Ford government had been under intense pressure of late to once again allow these outside activities though the news wasn't all good for everyone.
"The announcement from the Premier this past week was soul-crushing in a way," said Jody Palubiski, Partner with the Charcoal Group of Restaurants. "You know, you think you're on the doorstep again and, again, you're delayed."
Restaurants who had been eyeing the June 2nd expiry date of Ontario's stay-at-home order as potentially the day they would also be able to once again welcome diners, at least outside, found out that would instead have to wait until the province moved into 'Step One' of its vaccination-based reopening plan, something the Health Minister projects won't happen until around the week of June 14th.
"I just don't understand it, I can't understand why he's making the decisions he is, why we're in this situation," said Palubiski. "I think I gave a benefit of the doubt for a long time but, I think on Thursday, the Premier's comments were so mind-blowingly out of touch."
Ford, at one point discussing a need to re-open slowly saying it wasn't that long ago the province was maxing out its ICU capacity. He then went on to praise the work of Ontario's Science Table as well as the Health Minister before turning back to the day's good news.
"People are going to be able to launch their boats, they're going to be out golfing, they're going to be able to play sports, they're going to be able to gather with five people outside their family," said Doug Ford. "So this is really good news."
"It's like he's talking to a select group of people, you know, to say go launch your boats, go golfing, and Go Leafs Go! while there's a lot of people who have worked, maybe, five months out of the last 14 months, they need to work," Palubiski said.
Even when Ontario restaurants are allowed to re-open in mid-June, 'Step One' of the province's plan will still only allow for outdoor dining at tables of no more than four. That rule will then loosen to tables of no more than six at least three weeks later, while indoor dining won't make a return until at least three weeks after that.
That said, Palubiski says he does feel most restaurant owners who have survived this far will be able to make it through to the light at the end of the tunnel, though the industry does still need support.
"On the positive side, what we have heard and certainly what we've experienced every opportunity when there's been an opportunity to open safely, open your patio, put a couple tables out, people come back," he said. "When we speak to some of our suppliers or even some of our service providers such as OpenTable, they're saying when restaurants have opened in these areas, Australia, New Zealand, some of the U.S. areas, they're seeing business at 120 per cent of the level pre-COVID."
"So, I think there's a lot to be optimistic about, we just need to get there and every day really counts for a lot of these people."