Big box stores impacted by new restrictions as small businesses choose to defy rules

Big box stores felt the impact of the province's tightened restrictions for the first time Thursday, forced to close all non-essential aisles during the four-week stay-at-home order.

From Walmart to dollar stores and Costco, big box retailers are allowed to remain open but can sell only grocery or pharmacy items. Smaller non-essential retail stores can offer curbside pickup or delivery only.

In Barrie, some restaurants chose to defy the current provincial orders and keep the doors open to customers.

Shalu Persaud, the owner of the Simmering Kettle, has previously been fined $1,000 for allowing in-store dining. And day one of the stay-at-home order didn't stop Persaud from keeping things business as usual. In a statement to CTV News, he said, "It's been a year, and if the officials that are guiding us can't figure it out in a year, and we're in a worse off case, we need help. And I guess this is the alarm for help."

The owner of Athletic Kulture, a health and fitness centre in Barrie, said he received his second $1,000 fine when he opened the doors Thursday morning.

In downtown Barrie, Stefano Agostino chose to open for indoor and outdoor dining at his pizzeria. "It's again a point of survival. So we need to operate. We need to be able to make money for ourselves, and even for our employees," he said. "It's a demonstration that we continue to show that we can operate safely."

The City of Barrie noted that while customers won't be charged for entering a business that remains open against the rules, the owners and operators would be charged for failing to comply.

The city mentioned that a customer could be fined for not wearing a face mask or gathering in large numbers.