COVID-19: London, Ont., businesses brace for potential stay-at-home order extension

Small businesses in London are once again forced to grapple with uncertainty as Ontarians await confirmation on whether or not the provincewide stay-at-home order will be extended.

The order is set to expire on May 20, but sources informed Global News this week that the province is considering pushing back the end date until at least June 2 amid the third wave of COVID-19.

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First implemented on April 8, the stay-at-home order has taken a toll on business for Mike Smith, who owns a number of London eateries including Joe Kool’s, Toboggan Brewing Co., and Fellini Koolini’s.

“The online and delivery orders are down from the previous lockdowns,” Smith said. “People tried to support our industry and we sure appreciate it… I think there comes a time when people want the full restaurant experience.”

Smith wants the province to consider making exceptions that allow for restaurants to open if a stay-at-home order is extended.

While he admits patios won’t be enough for the industry, given that not every restaurant has one, Smith feels that something is better than nothing.

“We have to gradually phase back, and I want to be cautious about it, but I think certainly opening outside activities and releasing it a bit is what they have to do,” Smith said.

“I get that they still have to have some restrictions, but it’s time to start weaning them off.”

“I kind of half-expected it,” said Fitness Forum owner Alec Pinchin about the potential stay-at-home order extension.

Pinchin said the local gym is getting by on government subsidies, but added he doesn’t believe the fitness industry is being fairly dealt with.

“I think it would be reasonable to kind of open up fitness facilities (and) outdoor activities for everyone’s benefit,” Pinchin said, adding that he hoped any gym reopening would be based on capacity rather than a blanket restriction on people for all gyms.

“Some can have areas as big as a football field and others are small spots in a strip plaza. We’re certainly of the belief that it should be based on capacity.”

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As he awaits a reopening that may be pushed back two weeks, Pinchin said he’s received countless messages from members who are itching to get back to the gym.

“They’re working out on their own, but it’s just not the same thing,”

Salon Entrenous has also found itself inundated with questions from clients asking when the Richmond Row business will reopen.

“A lot of people don’t understand, we have all the same information that everybody else does, we don’t get any sort of heads up,” said Mary Jansenberger, communications director for Salon Entrenous.

Jansenberger said Salon Entrenous has started offering curbside pickup for retail purchases amid the stay-at-home order, but admits, “that’s never really been the main source of revenue for the salon.”

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Jansenberger added that an uncertain reopening date is especially challenging for Salon Entrenous, which focuses on taking appointments that were cancelled due to pandemic closures and rebooking them for when the salon is allowed to reopen.

Salon Entrenous started this protocol after Ontario’s first lockdown in 2020 left them with a backlog of more than 14,000 cancelled appointments.

“We’ve rebooked everybody until May 20, but if they push this back any further then we have to do all of the rebooking that we did for this last lockdown,” Jansenberger said.

“Plus whatever the new timeframe is… all of the clients in between May 20 and whatever date the province gives us.”

A hotbed for downtown business, London's Richmond Row has become significantly quieter amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

A hotbed for downtown business, London's Richmond Row has become significantly quieter amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Andrew Graham / Global News

Lisa Ferguson is the owner of Hangar9, a clothing store on Richmond Row that she describes as “still in survival mode.”

“I said this last year, and obviously it didn’t come true, but I’ll be so glad when this year is over… it’s been a very, very trying year and a half,” Ferguson said.

Like other business owners, the uncertainty surrounding pandemic-related restrictions and closures has become normalized for Ferguson, who said Hangar9 had already prepared for the stay-at-home order to be extended.

“This is not new news to us, we kind of thought that this was going to happen anyways because why would the government open up before a long weekend?”

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Ferguson said she hopes the province will consider lifting certain restrictions or adding exemptions for small business retail stores if the stay-at-home order is extended.

“Put restrictions on me, allow one person at a time or two people at a time, that’s fine, I understand all that,” Ferguson said.

“But to completely shut me down and have big box stores open? It just doesn’t make sense to me at all.”

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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