Outaouais gyms, restaurants to reopen Monday

The Outaouais is the only region that will downgrade from red to an orange zone next Monday. Quebec Premier François Legault said all other regions will remain in the red zone for the time being.

Outaouais the only region to downgrade from red to orange alert level Feb. 22

The Outaouais is the only region that will turn from red to orange in Quebec next Monday. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

The Outaouais will be returning to the orange zone on Quebec's colour-coded pandemic scale on Feb. 22.

Quebec Premier François Legault announced the changes late Tuesday, alongside news that movie theatres and indoor sports facilities across the province will be allowed to reopen during March break. Gatineau will move to a curfew between 9:30 p.m. and 5 a.m. 

The Outaouais is the only region that will turn from red to orange next Monday, joining just a handful of Quebec regions already in that zone. This is based on the fact that the number of new cases there and in the Ottawa region is stabilizing, Legault said.

Other regions will remain in the red zone for the time being out of caution, the premier said.

A return to orange means restaurants will be allowed to reopen in the region but with a maximum of two adults at a table. Parents can be joined by their children and diners will need to show proof they live in the area.

Wait a little before dining in, says owner

"We're really happy," said Mark Vargas, owner of Amazonas Peruvian Restaurant in Gatineau, but added that restrictions will be tough for a family restaurant like his which often seats six people or more at a table.

Vargas has implemented additional measures like contactless ordering and double masking.

Quebec Premier François Legault says the Outaouais zone change is due to stabilizing numbers in the region. (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press)

He doesn't expect to be allowed to keep his dining room open for long, as cases of variants of the coronavirus continue to rise and suggests people be careful before they go out to eat.

"We encourage people to still maybe wait a little bit until going out into the restaurant, even if it's not that good for us," Vargas said.

Gyms happy

Gyms will also be allowed to open next Monday, but training will be limited to individuals or people who live in the same home.

"Everybody's happy. Everybody wants to do some reservation," said Jean-François Ruel, owner of Centre d'entraînement ISDP. He says he's happy, even with restrictions in place at his gym.

"It's a lot of good emotion right now after all we've been through."

Shane Miller with CrossFit 819 in Gatineau said his members are also "very happy" about being able to return. While the gym usually operates on group classes, Miller said workout programs will be given to people to follow on their own.

Staff at the gym will spend the next week getting equipment ready. Since the closures, customers have been renting out equipment to use at home and following trainers online.

"That's a bit of a process. We lent out pretty much anything that's not screwed down. Even our floor mats," Miller said. "It's a lot of work but we're just happy to be able to do it."

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