Restaurant industry dealing with uncertain return to in-person dining

The ban on in-person dining is tentatively set to end on Jan. 26, but Ontario’s top doctor now says that date is not a guarantee and it’s causing concern in the hospitality industry.

“As soon as we have clarity, we want to inform the business community, so I can’t guarantee the 26th,” Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, said during a news conference this week.

The Ontario Chamber Of Commerce said businesses need the heads up to prepare, calling the lack of transparency "frustrating and unfair."

“We're given no clarity on whether or not the 26th is still on and on what basis the decisions will be made,” said Rocco Rossi with the chamber.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if any day now something comes out saying that it’s going to be delayed by another week or two,” said Tim Borys, co-owner of the Lancaster Smokehouse.

Lancaster Smokehouse currently has 15 staff members. Before the last round of restrictions, they had about 45 staff members. They intend to bring those employees back when they can reopen, but for now they have to ask them to wait until they’re given the green light.

“We’re lucky enough that I think our staff are very happy here and want to come back to work,” Borys said.

The co-owner said he is holding off on making big food and drink orders until a date is official.

“Typically you can kind of foreshadow and plan a budget for these things but with COVID and the supply chain issues you can kind of throw that out the window because nobody knows,” Borys said.

Some businesses said the silver lining is that they have done this so many times before that they could reopen on short notice.

“We've got pretty good connections after doing this for so long. If they announced it by morning and I needed it by night I could probably do it,” said Borys.