Barrie restaurants strained by patio shutdown, construction

If you're walking down Simcoe Street in downtown Barrie, you can see the permanent sign behind Grillicious Gourmet Tap and Eatery in yellow that reads "patio open." As of Friday, that's not the case, as a provincial shutdown forced restaurants back to take-out and delivery.

"The businesses that are going to go under because of this, it's not fair to them, it's not fair to anybody," says Grillicious General Manager Colleen Desimone.

Before the shutdown announcement, Grillicious' owners had spent several thousand dollars on food and beer ahead of the holiday weekend, only to see it go down the drain. They also paid thousands to upgrade and extend their now-closed patio with tables and chairs under lock and key.

"We put it up, and we had to take it back down because they shut us down," says Desimone.

The city had planned to kick off its Patios Everywhere program April 1, opening temporary patios early. Now, along Dunlop Street, where temporary patios could have been, there are just parked cars and empty seats on existing patios.

"It was all set to go," says Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman.

"We rushed the program out to be available for the month of April;

normally it doesn't start until late May, and normally we don't allow, for example, a strip plaza to convert its parking spaces to outdoor dining, but all of those things were set to go as of Friday."

Grillicious management says they've been through some tough times over the last two years, including the Dunlop Streetscape Project construction that began in 2019.

Now they're up against a third pandemic wave and an uncertain future.

"It's very frustrating; it's not only our restaurant, it's every restaurant," says Desimone.

"Nobody knows if they're going to be open tomorrow, they don't know if they're going to have to shut down permanently because they can't make it on take-out."

Construction crews will return to Dunlop as early as Monday to put what the city calls "finishing touches" on the streetscape project.

Work between Five Points and Mulcaster Street is expected to last until the end of May. Construction on surrounding streets could last until the end of June.