Ottawa

Outdoor businesses argue they could open safely as province extends closure

Ottawa golf courses and boat rental companies say they could open safely even as the stay-at-home order is extended for another two weeks.

Stay-at-home order and restrictions on outdoor recreation extended to June 2

Golf course manager, Martin Patterson, says customers are anxious to be outside. Like many across the province, he believes golf courses could open safely as the lockdown is extended once again. (Supplied by Lively Golf Club)

Under a bright May sun, Martin Patterson stands alone on a perfectly manicured golf course green, having just learned that he won't be able to welcome back customers for at least another two weeks.

On Thursday, the Ontario government announced it would be extending the stay-at-home order, which began in April and includes restrictions on outdoor recreation, until June 2 in order to lower cases of COVID-19 in the province.

"[I'm] a little disappointed if you ask me, and it's unfortunate that we are in this," said Patterson, the general manager at Emerald Links, Anderson Links and Cloverdale Links in Ottawa.

"I was expecting to be able to play golf a little bit earlier."

Patterson said his customers have been "anxious" to get out on the links, and like many others across the province, believes golf courses could open safely during the order.

He said there have been no cases of COVID-19 among either staff or players, and that golfing offers the perfect opportunity to enjoy the outdoors while staying safely distanced.

Patterson said his company may have to look into refunding members if the shutdown continues for much longer. Right now, membership money is going toward maintaining the courses, even if golfers haven't been able to use them.

"We're doing our best. We're rationing a lot of things, but we're trying to make the best of it," he said.

"Hopefully we can maintain this as long as we can, but it'll come to an end at some point in time."

Dozens of reservations cancelled

Thursday's announcement also pauses the beginning of boating season in Ontario.

Mid-May is normally busy times for boating companies as they prepare for the long weekend, said Sterling Bown, owner of Freedom Boat Club in Ottawa.

Bown's business had 30 reservations lined up for that weekend, all of which now need to be cancelled. He said the shutdown also has an impact on staff, who are now going another two weeks without work.

The owner of Freedom Boat Club says the business was able to open safely in May last year, with only members of the same household allowed on a boat. (Submitted by Sterling Bown)

"Some of them are university students, which of course, use the summer jobs to pay their tuition and other things," he said.

Bown said while he's committed to listening to health authorities, he believes that like golf, boating can be done safely, by limiting members of one household to a boat and by enhancing sanitizing measures.

Given the seasonal nature of his business, Bown said he's hopeful outdoor recreation will resume in June, something Premier Doug Ford has also expressed optimism about.

"If we were to be talking about this to be extended for another month past that into July, that would really cause, I think, a problem for our business. And not just our business, but a lot of businesses," he said.

With files from CBC Radio's All In A Day

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