Indoor dining, gyms, cinemas reopen as Windsor-Essex moves to Step 3 ahead of schedule

COVID-19 restrictions will ease five days ahead of schedule in Windsor-Essex and across the province, a long awaited move for many local businesses.

Originally planned for July 21, Ontario will now be moving into Step 3 of the province’s Roadmap to Reopen at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, July 16.

"Thanks to the tireless efforts of our frontline heroes, and the ongoing commitment of Ontarians to get vaccinated, we have surpassed the targets we set in order to enter Step Three of our Roadmap,” said Premier Doug Ford. “While this is welcome news for everyone who wants a return to normal, we will not slow down our efforts to fully vaccinate everyone who wants to be and put this pandemic behind us once and for all.”

As of next Friday, restaurants will once again be able to offer indoor dining, movie-lovers will be able to enjoy a film at the theatre and gyms can offer indoor fitness options.

Great news! Starting next Friday, July 16 the province of Ontario will enter Step 3 of the Roadmap to Reopen! Step 3 means some indoor services can open at reduced capacities and public gathering limits can expand. Find the specific details at: https://t.co/fVjXdrz65f

— Drew Dilkens (@drewdilkens) July 9, 2021

Restaurants and indoor religious services or ceremonies must abide by the same capacity and social distancing restrictions as Step 2.

Nick Pontikis, owner of Thanasis Greek Restaurant says he's excited.

“One doesn’t realize how much is involved in stalking up your fridges your freezers, scheduling, your hours will have to change so it’s such a relief to know I got six days to prepare for all this.”

Jenn Egget, manager of Human Resources for Imagine Cinemas is also ready to get back to 'normal'.

“We’re just super excited to e back. We have good movies this time around so the main thing is we have the content now which is great. We have big names like Black Widow, Space Jam, F9.”

The move also means Caesars Windsor will be able to welcome guests as casinos and bingo halls are permitted to reopen at 50 per cent capacity.

The casino has been closed to the public since March 16, 2020 with the exception of a short stint with very tight restrictions last fall.

Fifty percent means around 2,500 people will be allowed inside.

Unifor Local 444 president Dave Cassidy says its recalling about 600 workers.

He calls the move to Step 3 a great start, but says the union will be lobbying for the casino to be reopened at full capacity.

“We're ready, we're ready to move to 100 percent capacity now, I mean what is herd immunity, we talk about herd immunity, what is that,” Cassidy asks. “The reality is today is a good day because our workers are coming back to work, we have a lot coming back to work but not everyone is coming back.”

Face coverings are still required in indoor public spaces and physical distancing requirements remain in place.

In order to move to Step 3, vaccination rates across Ontario needed to hit 70 to 80 per cent of first doses and 25 per cent fully vaccinated — a target the province met three weeks ahead of schedule.

The eased restrictions that come with Step 3 of the Roadmap includes, but is not limited to:

  • Outdoor social gatherings and organized public events with up to 100 people with limited exceptions;
  • Indoor social gatherings and organized public events with up to 25 people;
  • Indoor religious services, rites or ceremonies, including wedding services and funeral services permitted with physical distancing;
  • Indoor dining permitted with no limits on the number of patrons per table with physical distancing and other restrictions still in effect;
  • Indoor sports and recreational fitness facilities to open subject to a maximum 50 per cent capacity of the indoor space. Capacity for indoor spectators is 50 per cent of the usual seating capacity or 1,000 people, whichever is less. Capacity for outdoor spectators is 75 per cent of the usual seating capacity or 15,000 people, whichever is less;
  • Indoor meeting and event spaces permitted to operate with physical distancing and other restrictions still in effect and capacity limited to not exceed 50 per cent capacity or 1,000 people, (whichever is less);
  • Essential and non-essential retail with with capacity limited to the number of people that can maintain a physical distance of two metres;
  • Personal care services, including services requiring the removal of a face covering, with capacity limited to the number of people that can maintain a physical distance of two metres;
  • Museums, galleries, historic sites, aquariums, zoos, landmarks, botanical gardens, science centres, casinos/bingo halls, amusement parks, fairs and rural exhibitions, festivals, with capacity limited to not exceed 50 per cent capacity indoors and 75 per cent capacity outdoors;
  • Concert venues, cinemas, and theatres permitted to operate at:
  • up to 50 per cent capacity indoors or a maximum limit of 1,000 people for seated events (whichever is less)
  • up to 75 per cent capacity outdoors or a maximum limit of 5,000 people for unseated events (whichever is less); and up to 75 per cent capacity outdoors or a maximum of 15,000 people for events with fixed seating (whichever is less).
  • Real estate open houses with capacity limited to the number of people that can maintain a physical distance of two metres; and
  • Indoor food or drink establishments where dance facilities are provided, including nightclubs and restobars, permitted up to 25 per cent capacity or up to a maximum limit of 250 people (whichever is less).

According to the province, Ontario will remain in Step 3 of the Roadmap for at least 21 days and until 80 per cent of residents aged 12 and over have received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 75 per cent are fully vaccinated.

- With files from CTV Toronto.