Windsor

Frustration and disappointment after Windsor-Essex held back from Stage 3

Following the news that Windsor-Essex will be held back from joining the rest of the province to enter Stage 3, some business owners in the region say it's going to make it harder for them to keep going.

Windsor-Essex now the only region in Ontario still stuck in Stage 2

Tony Smith, owner of The Garage Gym in Kingsville, says exercise equipment has been set up outside for people to use, but setting that up isn't easy. That's just part of the reason he's hoping the province will move Windsor-Essex into Stage 3 sooner rather than later. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

Following the news that Windsor-Essex will be held back from joining the rest of the province to enter Stage 3, some business owners in the region say it's going to make it harder for them to keep going.

The provincial government announced Tuesday that Windsor-Essex would remain in Stage 2 of reopening due to its high case count of COVID-19 — making it the only region in Ontario not moving into Stage 3.

Among many things, Stage 3 would mean that gyms can let people workout inside their facilities. COVID-19 has also left the theatre industry in a state of uncertainty as companies suffer major financial losses and performers are left without work.

Tony Smith, owner of The Garage Gym, said he's been doing everything he can to keep his operation alive, such as offering about 40 classes online and allowing people to exercise just outside the gym in a group of less than ten people. 

That comes with its own share of challenges, he said, like unpredictable weather and having to lug "about 1,500 pounds worth of weights" outside every morning. Permitting outdoor exercise is also taking a toll on the equipment itself, since weights are being left on the gravel and concrete, rather than the softer gym flooring.

"We would love to have our people inside and training," said Smith.

"Our facility's not like most gyms. Everybody has their own equipment. They work out in their own space," he added. "We have huge bay doors."

Mark Worsley of the Kordazone Theatre says resuming this year's shows may not be possible even after Windsor-Essex gets the green light to move into Stage 3. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

Smith said he just wants to see a return to normalcy — not only because it would help his bottom line which has suffered during this pandemic, but also because staying healthy and active has been suggested as one of the best things people can do for themselves during this pandemic.

"As far as risk, we're on the same [wave] length as some of the places that are already open," he said. "That's where a lot of the frustration comes — not from their decisions, but from the differentiating between some businesses and others."

In the theatre world, the rush to reopen the doors isn't as quick. 

At the KordaZone Theatre in Windsor, which was forced to postpone its 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, operations are "completely dead" and no one has been inside the building with the exception of a few maintenance workers.

"We're excited about coming back, but we also have some reservations about whether or not it's actually feasible for a group our size in a building this size," said Mark Worsley, technical director and maintenance manager for the theatre.

Moya McAlister, vice president for Arts Collective Theatre, says the group is trying to put shows together with a significantly-reduced number of cast members to adhere to physical distancing guidelines. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

KordaZone's small size would make it difficult for theatre-goers to physically distance from one another, Worsley said.

Even if it were possible, Worsley added it may not make financial sense for a show to move ahead with such a limited number of paying customers in the audience.

It's resulted in KordaZone Theatre already shifting its focus toward 2021.

"We're very disappointed, but we have to be safe for the people on stage and the people in the audience," said Worsley, adding it would also be tough to enforce physical distancing for cast members hanging backstage.

A lot of theatre companies are in a similar "holding pattern," according to Moya McAlister, vice president for the Arts Collective Theatre.

The group puts together larger productions of their own, but all that is on hold for now. In the meantime, ACT has been applying for grants to make smaller productions a reality — featuring casts of only 10 to 12 people.

We're very disappointed, but we have to be safe for the people on stage and the people in the audience.- Mark Worsley, KordaZone Theatre

"With those cast numbers, even our audience sizes are smaller," said McAlister. "We can do something like an under-50 audience number with those shows."

But even that will take a lot of time and assurance to get up and running.

"We usually are in rehearsal two to three months. Just gathering the people, making sure everybody's still feeling comfortable coming back and being in this space, I think it's going to take some more time," McAlister said. 

With files from Jacob Barker

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