Ford reopening ‘pause’ doesn’t make any sense, Filmores owner says

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Some owners of businesses hit hardest by the pandemic — nightclubs, strip clubs and wedding venues — are shaking their heads at the Doug Ford government’s latest last-minute move.

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The Ford government paused its reopening plan this week, meaning the lifting of capacity limits at vaccine passport-mandated venues like dance clubs will not go ahead as planned Monday.

Howard Adams, president of Filmores Hotel, a well-known adult entertainment club on Dundas Street East, said the decision means he’ll have to stay at 40% capacity while large sports arenas pack in fans.

“I don’t think it makes any sense at all – if the fourth wave is the wave of the unvaccinated, then why are you are you punishing the vaccinated?” Adams said. “Strip clubs, by example, are already legally mandated to only permit in fully vaccinated patrons. So what’s the difference between our business and any other business that’s is required to only permit fully-vaccinated patrons?”

A relatively smaller venue like a nightclub or Filmores — which brought in its own vaccine mandate for guests and staff long before the Ford government — is in a far better position to control the behaviour of its maximum 300 customers than the Blue Jays dealing with 50,000 patrons, many drinking and shouting, he said.

“The only conclusion that I can draw is that the haves and the have nots are just based on political decisions and it’s based on who’s got the deepest pockets to influence government,” Adams said.

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The Ford government’s choice to leave big box stores open and selling non-essential items during the early days of the pandemic drew similar complaints among shuttered small business owners.

In addition to nightclubs and strip clubs, businesses impacted by the pause are bathhouses, sex clubs and indoor wedding venues with dancing.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore has noted an increase in daily COVID-19 cases and warned the virus is spreading mostly in the 20- to 39-year-old age group in indoor spaces where masks are removed.

“Throughout the pandemic, and recently, there have been COVID-19 transmission and outbreaks at many of these settings, especially wedding receptions,” Ontario Ministry of Health spokesperson Anna Miller said in a statement. “These higher risk venues have crowding of individuals in close contact in enclosed settings, where masks cannot always be worn, which increases the risk for COVID-19 transmission and outbreaks.”

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Tony Elenis, president and CEO of the Ontario Restaurant Hotel and Motel Association (ORHMA), said the hospitality industry has struggled throughout the crisis and nightclubs are still grappling with low attendance and high overhead.

Many nightclubs have tried to create outdoor patios and some are now delivering food to keep afloat, because government support programs have been helpful but not enough, he said.

“They’re still in the heart of the pandemic,” Elenis said.

A “safety first” approach is the priority, and nightclubs with their well-trained staff and security are in a good position to enforce vaccine mandates, he said.

The government needs to reinforce the message to customers and staff that they are safe in a vaccinated environment, he said.

Instead, the Ford government chose to publicly announce it will lift vaccine mandates in January which has meant some customers have opted to stay unvaxxed and wait it out, he said.

“Mid-November to sort of the end of December is the busiest time of the year in any food and beverage establishment,” Elenis said. ”

aartuso@postmedia.com

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