Customers not yet flocking back to full capacity businesses

Non-essential businesses that can now operate at full capacity, aren’t necessarily seeing droves of customers coming back.

As of Monday, capacity restrictions have been lifted on casinos, restaurants, salons, gyms and other locations where proof of vaccination is required.

At Gateway Casinos in London, spokesperson Rob Mitchell tells CTV News, staff worked through the night to have the site ready. And judging by the number of cars in the parking lot it looked like a banner day.

But one customer who had been inside described it as “slow.” She chalked it up to less disposable income due to the pandemic.

“Money is tight and everything is more expensive,” she said. “The grocery stores. Everywhere. More money. More money.”

London’s mayor applauds the province for taking a cautious approach in lifting restrictions.

“From my standpoint, that means that these plans are also aspirational because if we don’t reach these targets, any decision to delay certain segments of our economy from opening up, I would say look no further than the unvaccinated.”

At King of the Pigs Restaurant on Hamilton Road in London, owner Rui Vieira uses his phone to check customers’ QR codes indicating their vaccine status. He said he’s glad to be back to full capacity for the first time since the pandemic began, but he knows pre-COVID level business won’t return overnight.

“It’s going to be an uphill battle again because people are going to have to get used to the full restaurant and having people beside them,” said Vieira. “Even though you have the vaccine, I think people will still be kind of a little bit scared to sit beside another person they don’t know.”

Places of worship are also allowed to have full capacity if they check for proof of vaccination. At Byron United Church in London, the pews are marked at two metres apart, maintaining about 30 per cent capacity. Reverend Dr. Gregory Brawn said the church will maintain that level for the time being.

“There are people that want to be here every Sunday, and they are, and feel comfortable because of the six foot distancing and mask,” he said. “And there are those that are not quite comfortable with that and haven’t been back yet but they’re looking forward to a time when they feel safe. And there are people who don’t feel comfortable wearing a mask for an hour, and so they’re waiting until they don’t have to wear a mask.”

Brawn said a decision whether to go to full capacity and check vaccination status will be made by the church’s elders in the next few weeks.