Toronto asks for additional measures for restaurant, bars, indoor dining ahead of Stage 3 reopening

Toronto Mayor John Tory is calling on the province to implement additional measures that would be applied to bars, restaurants and indoor dining settings ahead of any Stage 3 reopening in the city, saying he is worried about a second wave.

In a letter to Premier Doug Ford, Tory calls for six actions that he hopes will be put in place quickly, including early closure times, further physical distancing restrictions and requiring customers to stay seated at all times.

“I know Premier Ford is just as concerned as I am about a second wave and the disastrous impact that a return to a more stringent lockdown would have on the health of our residents and the restart of the Ontario economy,” Tory said in a statement on Saturday.

“We have seen in other jurisdictions that further reopening can lead to increased outbreaks of COVID-19 and growing case count numbers. We do not want to go in that direction.”

Tory said he hopes the province will make amendments to the province’s Stage 3 order that will apply, at least, to Toronto. 

The six changes are:

  • Requiring customers of indoor food and drink establishments to be seated at all times unless walking in or out, going to the washroom or paying the bill. The present requirement applies only while people are actually eating or drinking.
  • Requiring restaurant and bar operators to keep a customer log with a name and contact information along with the date, check in and check out times, and table number for 30 days. Right now, this is only a Toronto Public Health recommendation not a provincial requirement.
  • Implementing additional capacity restrictions for food and drink establishments that limit occupancy to ensure that physical distancing can be easily maintained by all patrons. Right now, there is no cap provided distancing can be maintained.
  • Implementing early closure times for food and drink establishments for at least an initial period of time, similar to what has been done in Quebec.
  • Requiring establishments to implement COVID-19 screening protocols for staff, such as completion of a screening questionnaire, prior to the commencement of their shifts. 
  • Outlining clear mandatory face covering requirements for staff and patrons of bars and restaurants in the amended Stage 3 order.

In a statement to CBC Toronto, the Ontario health ministry said under the current regulations for Stage 3, customers are required to be seated, but only when eating and drinking, buffets are not permitted, physical distancing or barriers must be set up and establishments need to restrict dancing, singing and music performances.

“Our top priority is the health and safety of all Ontarians,” the statement said. 

“We appreciate the City of Toronto’s advice and will continue to work directly with them as we evaluate when the region may be ready to safely enter Stage 3.”

The city said these establishments present a high level of risk of transmission of the novel coronavirus and by implementing additional measures, will ensure public health and safety as the city prepares to move into Stage 3 of reopening.

The recommendations come after a number of bars and restaurants made headlines for not maintaining physical distancing in their establishments. 

Last week, the Ontario Medical Association urged the Ford government to rethink allowing bars to resume serving customers indoors, saying that bars have been shown to fuel the spread of the virus.

“I firmly believe that for the good of the province and our city, we must continue to move forward safely, but we also must do everything we can to continue to stop the spread of COVID-19,” said Tory.

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