Some retail store owners hesitant to reopen to customers in Toronto amid COVID-19

Some retail store owners in Toronto are reluctant to open their shops to customers on Tuesday even though business can resume if the stores have separate street entrances and physical distancing measures in place.

Province says stores with separate street entrances, physical distancing measures can reopen Tuesday

Cal MacLean, owner of Shortstack Records, has a look at some records in his store. (CBC)

Some retail store owners in Toronto are reluctant to open their shops to customers on Tuesday even though business can resume if the stores have separate street entrances and physical distancing measures in place.

Cal MacLean, owner of Shortstack Records, on Dundas Street West, said he is not rushing to reopen because he thinks the store is not ready. MacLean said he is putting off reopening for the time being. Reopening right now could put his staff and customers at risk, he said.

"No one has a clear idea of what we are supposed to be doing," MacLean told CBC Toronto on Monday. "There seems to be a lot of confusion."

MacLean noted that Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced last Tuesday that retail stores could reopen under certain conditions as part of the provincial plan to restart the province gradually amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

In a news release on Thursday, the Ontario government said the province's first stage of reopening will begin on Tuesday at 12:01 a.m. 

The government said the first stage will include "retail services that are not in shopping malls and have separate street-front entrances with measures in place that can enable physical distancing, such as limiting the number of customers in the store at any one time and booking appointments beforehand or on the spot."

To open safely to customers, Shortstack Records would need face masks, hand sanitizer and a spit guard, MacLean said. 

"Three business days isn't long enough for you to acquire those supplies, especially when the demand is so high," he said. "Reopening Tuesday, that's not enough time to get everything in order to open safely."

The supplies are an added expense when money is tight, he added.

MacLean said, however, that doing business only by curbside and online sales is not necessarily sustainable in the long run. Right now, the store is making enough just to cover rent.

"A lot of record shopping involves browsing, making discoveries and that's hard to do if you're just online or can't go into the store to look around."

What is most needed, he added, is a freeze on commercial rents.

Marilyn Wilputte and her dog Aster pose for a photo. Wilputte, who runs Diggity Dog Grooming in Cabbagetown, says she is already booked until the middle of June. (Facebook)

According to the province, the government is also allowing animal services, specifically pet care services, such as grooming and training, and regular veterinary appointments to restart.

At Diggity Dog Grooming in Cabbagetown, owner Marilyn Wilputte said she is already booked until the middle of June. She works out of a vet clinic and she has stopped booking until she has a better idea of how she and the clinic can manage in the summer.

"A lot of people are desperate to get their dogs groomed at this point," she said.

Wilputte said she will be wearing a face mask all the time, staggering appointments, starting later and grooming fewer dogs a day than usual to make sure she has time to clean. She is also going to go outside to pick up the dogs.

"Clients can't come into the clinic so I have to go out and meet the dog there," she said.

Wilputte said the government should have considered dog grooming an essential service in the first place because dogs can develop health issues, such as matting that can leave bruises or sores, if they are not groomed regularly.

"It is important for the health of the animal," she said.

Ford himself said reopening a retail store, even if it has a street entrance and room for physical distancing, is optional.

"I want to be clear. Businesses should open only if they are ready," Ford said at a news conference last week.

With Lauren Pelley and Angelina King


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