Local restaurant owner continues to question new restrictions after meeting with health unit

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A local bar and restaurant owner is asking questions following a recent health unit order banning indoor dancing at all bars, restaurants and nightclubs while also ordering them to close by midnight.

Matt Komsa is co-owner of The G.O.A.T., Bull and Barrel, and Wild Child Nightlife.

He claims, in a recent virtual meeting with health officials, several business owners were told the health unit doesn't have the funds or staff to inspect establishments after midnight — but local Medical Officer of Health Dr. Wajid Ahmed says that just isn't the case.

Komsa says the health unit needs to be held accountable.

"The health unit has no one to answer to and they just put out blanket restrictions, curfews, new measures without consulting business owners, without consulting employees," says Komsa.  "They have to understand that they're affecting a lot of people's mental health, a lot of people's wallets, a lot of people's financial ability to pay their bills."

Dr. Ahmed says bars, restaurants and nightclubs have been ordered to close early for a good reason.

"We used data to justify what's happening and what the potential control measures are that we are putting place to help them understand," says Dr. Ahmed.  "We can only get through this pandemic when we are looking after each other and supporting each other in the best possible way."

Komsa says there's a lot at stake for restaurateurs.

"I'm sympathetic towards COVID," says Komsa.  "I'm very sympathetic towards anybody that has gotten sick or lost loved ones during COVID, but there's another side to this story that needs to be told sometimes. All we're asking for is a seat at the table and some consultation with businesses before you put sanctions or curfews in place that hurt them."

Dr. Ahmed says numbers show there are higher transmission rates after midnight.

"The data is the data," says Dr. Ahmed.  "We're telling you that this is where the impact is, this is where the activities are happening and this is what we are doing to contain it instead of completely shutting it down. When the vaccine verification system kicks in, we'll reassess the data, we'll look at what our community situation looks like."

Komsa says there needs to be more transparency.

"When decisions are made and they're shutting down commerce and the amount of monetary value on the table and jobs and lives, I think it warrants a little more than a half hour conversation and I think it requires a little bit more explanation."

Dr. Ahmed says the early closure order allows businesses to stay open for the majority of their normal operating hours.

"With the data that is in front of me, if I'm not taking any action I'm not doing my job," says Dr. Ahmed.  "It would impact your business, I get it, but it's a better compromise rather than we continue to let the high risk activities continue to get to the point where we start talking about we need to maybe shutdown everything."

The health unit rolled out the new restrictions on Tuesday.

Also included, as of September 20, indoor dancing is banned at all weddings except for the bride and groom.

A capacity limit of 100 people will also go into effect for all weddings and funerals while proof of vaccination will be required by all attendees.

Komsa adds many establishments are working with their BIAs and plan to submit a proposal to the health unit requesting patios to stay open until 2am.

— with files from AM800's Rob Hindi