Mixed reaction in Barrie to province's change in capacity limits

As the province lifts capacity limits on certain large venues, those in an already struggling hospitality industry say they are left in the dark and angry.

"To say we are frustrated and disappointed would be an understatement; we are infuriated, we don't get it," said Chris Gerrard, the owner of The Queens Hotel. "It's shocking. We get told nothing. We talk to MP's, MPP's and all we get is it's all about the curve and saving people's lives."

Since the province rolled out its vaccine certificate program, Gerrard says business is down 30 per cent.

He says adding to the blow is the announcement made Friday to allow places like sports facilities, concert venues and movie theatres to operate at full capacity with proof of vaccination. The move left out places like gyms and restaurants.

"This was a great announcement for big businesses, not for small businesses," said director of provincial affairs for Ontario at the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, Julie Kwiecinski. "We need answers to questions like, why does the Ontario government think it's fair and ok to cram 19,800 spectators into the Scotiabank Arena, without physical distancing rules, while at the same time telling gyms, yoga studios, dance studios and bowling alleys, you're stuck at 50 per cent capacity, and telling restaurants and event spaces you still have to comply by physical distancing rules?"

The CFIB is now calling on the province to level the playing field, saying the government is again siding with big business.

"Sadly, this takes us back to last holiday season where we had another David versus Goliath scenario," said Kwiecinski. "Last time, it was Walmart and Costco versus small business. They told Walmart and Costco, sell everything to anyone; meanwhile, they limited small retailers to the crumbs of curbside pickup and delivery."

At the same time, Dr. Sohail Gandhi, past president of the Ontario Medical Association, says the loosening of rules is a testament to hard work.

"We need to accept that we are never going to be completely free of COVID," said Gandhi. "What this shows is we are starting to learn to live with COVID floating around in a good way, and we are able to return closer and closer to normal."

Meanwhile, the Barrie Colts are welcoming the news, saying players are eager to play in front of a packed house at their next home game.

"We knew at some point we were going to get to 100 per cent we just weren't sure when that was going to be, but we are excited that it's now, and we're looking forward to playing in front of some great fans here in Barrie," said Barrie Colts president, Howie Campbell.

But for those like Gerrard at The Queens Hotel, they're stuck searching for answers.

"We know nothing, yet the big box stores and big business seem to be getting all the perks," Gerrard said.