Winnipeggers welcome heightened restrictions, while beleaguered businesses worry about further impacts

By | September 25, 2020

Winnipeggers seemed to support the move to increase public health restrictions in the city, though some business owners already struggling during the pandemic say they are concerned about the financial toll they could have. 

The city and 17 surrounding municipalities are being upgraded to orange on the pandemic response system starting Monday. 

That means people in and around Winnipeg will have to wear masks in indoor public places and limit gatherings to 10.

Ken Berg said it seemed like an obvious move given the city’s case trajectory. 

“I think wearing a mask is such a minimal effort on your part and a minimal amount of restriction so why not just have it in place earlier to help prevent more cases sooner,” he said. 

The province is also consulting with restaurants and bars about what steps they can take to lower the risk of spreading the illness, after officials said that nearly half of all the new cases in Winnipeg were linked to people in their 20s who were out at crowded bars, pubs and restaurants.

Those discussions may lead to more restrictions, said Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin at a surprise news conference Friday afternoon.

At The Forks, millennials out having a Friday afternoon drink said their peers who are going out while they’re sick should smarten up.

“We’re going to be profiled as we’re sick and we’re causing the problem when we’re doing the best to live life but still protect other people,” said Victoria Robertson. 

Concerns for bars, restaurants 

Amsterdam Tea Room and Bar owner Mark Turner welcomes mandatory masks, but he does worry about the financial toll further restrictions may have.

Amsterdam Tea Room and Bar owner Mark Turner wories about the financial toll further restrictions would have if health officials bring more rules in. (Walther Bernal/CBC News )

“I’m not going to sugar coat it. It will definitely be a struggle but like a lot of small business owners like myself we are survivors and we will find a way.”

Everyone who comes to the tea room has to fill out a questionnaire and leave their contact information.

Turner says a few have failed the screening and been refused service.

Jay Kilgour, who owns Fionn MacCool’s in Grant Park, says it’s been stressful to see so many COVID-19 cases linked to bars and restaurants. 

“It’s very stressful. There’s a level of responsibility that comes with what we do and with when people on their own aren’t acting as responsible as we are … it’s worrisome,” he said. 

Fionn MacCool’s franchisee Jay Kilgour said he’s doing everything he can to keep his bar safe for staff and customers. (Walther Bernal/CBC News )

He says he is doing everything he can to keep his staff and customers safe, and stay open.

They’ve taken out 12 tables to make more space in the restaurant and are operating at reduced capacity. 

Overall, Kilgour said his clientele has been amazing. But not everyone has liked the rules, and a few have left nasty reviews online after being asked to sanitize their hands. 

Cancellations pour in for event planners 

Friday’s announcement has already led to dozens of cancellations for Gates on Roblin and other event planners. 

Ray Louie, with The Gates on Roblin, said the reduced gathering sizes basically eliminate everything they have booked for the next four weeks. 

“Right now the phone is ringing off the hook because there’s dozens of events booked in the fall, some from the spring, some that are new, that all have to be cancelled,” he said. 

The Gates on Roblin has been doing some small weddings and other events during the summer, but business has been down close to 90 per cent, Louie said. 

He said he doesn’t understand why gatherings can’t happen when schools and casinos are still allowed to be open. 

“To me, I think we’re addressing the issue in the wrong area,” he said. 

Doug Stephen, president of Wow Hospitality, said they are trying to make weddings work with less than 10 people to encourage people to keep their bookings. 

“But the challenge there is there’s no dancing and there’s no mingling. It would be, come in, have a dinner where you’re all sitting socially distant. And that’s kind of what we’re trying to see if people want to do,” he said. 

“But for the most part, people that are doing a wedding, they want to have a wedding and at least have a father-daughter dance or a first dance as a couple. So it’s a challenge.”

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