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As COVID cases grow and temperatures drop, restaurateurs worry about business

'We’ve already bought everything for takeout in case we shut down; we have everything ready to switch over'
2020-10-14 Tobin Browning SM
Tobin Browning, owner of the Last Shot Bar and Grill in Thornton, looks out at his patio space, which is being used less and less as it gets colder and as people react to higher COVID-19 caseloads. Shane MacDonald, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Tobin Browning never really watched the news on TV before this year. 

Now Browning, who is co-owner of the Last Shot Bar and Grill in Thornton, says he’s paying more attention than ever. 

“Every time (Premier Doug) Ford comes on the TV at 1 p.m., I put it  on and I’m watching it,” he said. “And it’s been like that since March 17.”

New restrictions or rule changes could come at any time, as the  COVID-19 pandemic — and the province’s approach to fighting it — continues to change. 

As COVID-19 caseloads surged, specifically in Toronto, Ford recently spoke at one of those press conferences about a request to close indoor  dining for about one month. 

Ford asked for evidence and said he couldn’t make that decision without knowing the impact on people’s livelihoods. 

“I agree with it 100 per cent,” Browning said of the premier’s reluctance to shut down restaurants. “As long as a restaurant is doing  things they’re supposed to, following all the rules, there is no reason it should be considered.”

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit says it has not found "notable high-risk exposures in indoor restaurant settings similar to Toronto" in its investigations of COVID-19 so far, but is asking the public to shrink social circles as much as possible and to be cautious to reduce their exposure within the community. 

“It’s been lighter in the last week since all the big jumps and the spikes,” Browning said of business. “With it being cold, there is less interest in people going out — we’re getting a lot more takeout, though.”

Browning has already started to shut down part of his expanded patio: “Nobody is really sitting out there right now.” 

While patio business did help, his indoor dining capacity is still limited to almost half. As an added revenue stream, the Last Shot has started selling ingredients and supplies again like a mini-grocery store. 

Dan Davidson, Innisfil's deputy-mayor and owner of Davidson’s Country Dining, is also preparing for winter months that could be complicated by COVID. 

“I’m worried," he said. "As we go into the winter months, your business does slow down in cottage country.... We’ve already bought everything for takeout in case we shut down; we have everything ready to switch over.”

Small businesses are the backbone of the community, Davidson added, and they need as much as support as possible. 

Browning agreed. 

“Supporting local is supporting your kid’s hockey team or your kid's baseball team,” he said. 

Shane MacDonald, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Barrie Advance

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About the Author: Shane MacDonald

Shane MacDonald is a Local Journalism Reporter hosted by
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