With the resurgence of COVID-19 cases in Toronto, some restaurants are opting to close their indoor dining rooms despite there being no order from health officials to do so.

“It’s more of a smart and safe decision because we are responsible for our staff,” said Jed Smith, chef and co-owner of Donna’s restaurant, which specializes in modern eclectic comfort food in the city’s west end. 

“As owners we employ them and if anything bad happened to them, it’s on us.”

Smith and another owner, Ann Kim, said they made the difficult decision based on the rising number of COVID-19 cases in Toronto. 

“It will be a significant loss of revenue especially with the weather changing, not as many people want to eat outdoors,” Kim said.

Donna’s has been making use of a patio, but CafeTO, the highly successful road side dinning program is closing on Nov. 15 before the snow comes.

“We thought it would be important for us to make this difficult decision and instead focus on other ways we can make up that revenue with a more extensive takeout menu,” Kim said. 

“We’ve been selling wholesale to cafes in our neighbourhood and working on some items, that we plan to offer retail as well.”.

New bylaws for Toronto restaurants and bars

New temporary bylaws for restaurants and bars in the city are coming into effect to prevent outbreaks starting Oct. 8.

Restaurants and bars will be allowed to continue indoor dining but cannot have more than 75 patrons inside at one time.

They will also be required to maintain a customer log for each person coming in and will be required to limit the number of people at a table to six. Background music must also only be at the level of normal conversation.

Donna’s owners said they realize not every restaurant is fortunate enough to be a position to close indoors and hope more supports will made available to all restaurants and workers. 

“When they actually gave us the call, and let us know they are modifying everything, 100 per cent, no problem,” said Wesley Cheng, who was eating on the patio Wednesday evening. “We’re happy to be here as long as we can.” 

Toronto Mayor John Tory said Wednesday he’s exploring ways to make outdoor dining feasible through the winter months. 

Financial pressures to keep indoor dining open 

Alessandro Pietropaolo is a partner of Bar Isabel on College Street, which has not closed its indoor dining room.

“We have too many mouths to feed to stop operating, and I’m not referring to my clients,” he said in an email to CTV News Toronto Wednesday evening. 

Pietropaolo said further measures that can be taken internally to make the staff and guests feel safer are being discussed.

“At the moment we are hoping to expand our takeout mechanisms and continue with our regular dinner service inside the restaurant (even if severely reduced) as well as outside on our CafeTO patio,” Pietropaolo said. “I suspect that interior dining will be curtailed by provincial order sooner rather than later.”