Restaurant owners issue call for action against hospitality restrictions

Restaurant owners issue call for action against hospitality restrictions

Author of the article:

Kathleen Saylors

Publishing date:

Sep 28, 2021  •  12 hours ago  •  3 minute read  •  5 Comments

Matt Komsa, owner of The G.O.A.T. Tap and Eatery in LaSalle is shown at the establishment on Wednesday September 1, 2021.
Matt Komsa, owner of The G.O.A.T. Tap and Eatery in LaSalle is shown at the establishment on Wednesday September 1, 2021. Photo by Dan Janisse /Windsor Star

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With 100 per cent of patrons eating and drinking at Windsor’s indoor bars and restaurants vaccinated by provincial mandate, a group of local business owners are asking: Do midnight closures and prohibitions on dancing still make sense?

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“Now that we no longer have the highest rate of infection in Ontario, in addition to only allowing vaccinated patrons inside, the question still remains why we cannot operate after midnight and cannot allow dancing in our establishments,” said Matt Komsa, partner and co-owner in WKND Hospitality.

Komsa and other businesses owners are calling for the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit unit “#CanceltheCurfew” and roll back restrictions from a Sept. 7, 2021 letter of instruction that requires restaurants, bars and adult entertainment to close by midnight and prohibit indoor dancing.

In light of Ontario’s two-dose vaccine mandate for patrons eating and drinking indoors — and Windsor’s own slowly declining COVID-19 rates — Komsa said business owners are now questioning the need for those specific restrictions.

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“This is not meant to be a debate on vaccine passports. We’re not getting into the ‘vaxxed or not vaxxed’ issue,” Komsa said. “We’re wondering when we can get back to normal.”

Komsa and WKND Hospitality, which owns The Bull and Barrel and The Goat Tap and Eateries, as well as Wild Child Nightlife, started an online petition, which had more than 1,100 signatures Tuesday at press time.

Matt Komsa, owner of The G.O.A.T. Tap and Eatery in LaSalle is shown at the establishment on Wednesday September 1, 2021.
Matt Komsa, owner of The G.O.A.T. Tap and Eatery in LaSalle is shown at the establishment on Wednesday September 1, 2021. Photo by Dan Janisse /Windsor Star

These restrictions mean a big chunk of lost revenue, said Renaldo Agostino. Agostino is the president of Turbo Espresso Bar, a cafe and bar, and of events company Element Entertainment. With a midnight curfew, many people aren’t bothering to get dressed up and go out for what comes down to a few hours.

“That two hours (from midnight to 2 a.m.) is 90 per cent of revenue in the bar industry,” Agostino said.

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“It’s not just two hours, and that’s why it’s so important to have a seat at the table.”

Agostino said his businesses have followed public health restrictions — but he feels restrictions on bars and restaurants are “low-hanging fruit” compared to huge retail chains.

“I think our industry as been guilty, in some ways and some people, of breaking restrictions,” Agostino said. “Rather than making the few responsible for their actions, the greater industry suffers … This blanket rule hurts everyone.”

“I want … people breaking the rules to suffer for breaking the rules. I want to be part of the discussion and right now we’re not.”

Renaldo Agostino, owner of Turbo Espresso in downtown Windsor is shown on Tuesday, August 17, 2021.
Renaldo Agostino, owner of Turbo Espresso in downtown Windsor is shown on Tuesday, August 17, 2021. Photo by Dan Janisse /Windsor Star

In its Sept. 7 letter mandating the restrictions, the health unit cited rising case numbers and a need to further limit the spread of COVID-19.

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“While the WECHU acknowledges and thanks the community of Windsor- Essex for their adherence to public health measures throughout the pandemic and for the continued rise in vaccination rates, we still have a long way to go to reach the 90 per cent of our population fully vaccinated necessary to limit or reduce the impact of a fourth wave,” officials wrote.

Health officials did not respond to questions before deadline Tuesday.

Currently, 67 per cent of Windsor and Essex County residents are fully vaccinated. In a Sept. 24 update, health unit data still found the region to have the second-highest COVID-19 test positivity rate in the province, though cases are beginning to trend downward.

  1. A man drinks a beer in a Windsor bar. A significant number of COVID-19 cases stemming from local businesses and weddings lax on pandemic restrictions has prompted a crackdown from the local health unit.

    Health unit issuing stricter COVID measures for bars, clubs, restaurants, weddings

  2. A sign at an Appleby's restaurant in Windsor informs customers of the proof-of-vaccination requirement on Sept. 22, 2021.

    Proof-of-vaccination requirement comes to Windsor-Essex businesses

  3. Ontario Premier Doug Ford attends an announcement at Toronto's Ontario Place, on Friday July 30, 2021.

    Proof of vaccination will be required to enter Ontario bars, indoor dining and other businesses

But with all patrons indoors now vaccinated, Agostino said he and other business owners wonder, “what exactly (they’re) doing?”

“Weclearly don’t want to do anything that puts the community at risk. We don’t want to seem like the angry restaurant and bar owners,” Agostino said.

“We want to be safe, we want to do what’s right. What’s the gameplay, what’s the diagnosis? We’re like the patients not being told what’s wrong with us.”

ksaylors@postmedia.com

twitter.com/KathleenSaylors

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