Ottawa business owners feel 'punished' by latest Ontario lockdown
'A big mistake,' says business owner about 28-day lockdown
Ottawa business owners say they're being swept up in the latest provincewide lockdown that punishes them for following the rules.
Lucas Nault, a Centretown salon owner, said he's frustrated. He installed rigid plastic barriers and reduced his staff hours to follow capacity guidelines, all in an effort to flatten the curve in Ottawa.
Ottawa came out of a modified Stage 2 lockdown in early November that prohibited indoor dining, gyms, casinos and movie theatres.
The city has had relatively low COVID-19 case numbers and deaths in recent weeks, compared to other regions in Ontario. As of Monday, there were no patients reported in intensive care units (ICU) at city hospitals.
"If we're following the rules and the numbers are down and there's no cases in the ICU, I don't understand why we're being punished at our busiest time of year, after being closed down for months," Nault said.
He said he has to cancel several appointments next week, including from customers who'd been quarantining specifically so they could get their hair styled.
Personal care services are among those businesses that have to close completely starting Boxing Day. The southern Ontario lockdowns are expected to last until Jan. 23, 2021.
Catherine Landry, CEO of events-planning business Call Betty Marketing, said the government is making "a big mistake."
"[It] will create havoc on entrepreneurs," she said. "This will be the final nail on a lot of people's ... business coffin."
Landry said small business owners in Ottawa shouldn't be looped in with other regions.
"We don't deserve this at all. We've abided by the [restrictions]. We followed everything to a T," she said.
Ford cites travel risks for Ottawa
Premier Doug Ford said the lockdown in Ottawa was in part because strict measures are being applied throughout Quebec, so the tighter rules would keep Quebecers from crossing the river "in droves."
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said city staff haven't seen an unusual spike in inter-provincial travel and he finds police checkpoints at bridges ineffective. Watson said the Ontario Provincial Police could step in, if the province is concerned.
Mark Kaluski, chair of the Ottawa Coalition of Business Improvement Areas, said banning travel between municipalities could've been a more effective way to contain the spread over the holiday season and keep businesses afloat.
He said business owners are frustrated because they thought they had adopted a mix of measures that would work until a more complete vaccine rollout.
"We really thought the closures were behind us. Especially given how we handled ourselves through the previous two lockdowns," Kaluski said.
"What I fear is that we're going to see a lot of businesses close ... I can't see how businesses will hold on."
Kaluski said retailers who were looking forward to a Boxing Day boost to their bottom lines may lose out to big-box stores.
He said he's glad the province has created a grant program, rather than a loan, for small businesses that have to close during the lockdown period.
With files from Priscilla Hwang