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Three women enjoy coffee at a cafe diner.RyanJLane/Getty Images/iStockPhoto

While most businesses can reopen in Stage 3 with health and workplace safety restrictions in place, some ‘high-risk’ venues and activities, such as water parks and buffets, will remain closed due to difficulties with physical distancing or proper sanitation.

Based on the advice of the provincial Chief Medical Officer of Health, Stage 3 gathering limits will be increased to 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors. That means more businesses in the tourism sector are being allowed to open, including bowling alleys, escape rooms, laser tag sites, mini-golf courses, BMX parks and climbing gyms.

“What it means is that we are getting back to some semblance of normalcy.

But we are also seeing some increased trepidation from Ontarians about the easing of restrictions and reopenings,” says Chuck Thibeault, executive director of industry development with Central Counties Tourism.

“There has been a lot of talk and warnings from government about the potential of a second wave in the fall and, upon the reopening of businesses, residents have that fear bubbling to the top of their minds,” he says.

Businesses can alleviate some of these fears by “showing” what the experience will be like, such as through short online videos.

After all, Stage 3 doesn’t mean it’s business as usual. As restaurants open in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Eduardo Lafforgue, president and chief executive officer of Niagara-on-the-Lake Chamber of Commerce, says most will be at 30 to 40 per cent capacity because of physical distancing measures.

“So, this is going to hurt.”

In St. Marys, Ont., council passed a motion to allow for temporary patio permits and has waived all fees. Even in Stage 3, “a patio will still be useful because of social distancing and lower capacities inside,” says Kelly Deeks-Johnson, the town’s tourism and economic development manager.

To support restaurants and tourism-based businesses, consider visiting at off-peak times, Thibeault says.

“If they are limited to 40 per cent capacity but can maintain 40 per cent capacity through the majority of their operating hours, their lost revenues will be lessened,” he says.

“Shifting visitation times to typical off-peak periods is also good for those who may still be feeling nervous about venturing out with their family or friends.”


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