Rising COVID case counts in Toronto are driving business owners in neighbouring towns to consider new measures to keep their staff and local patrons safe. Restaurants in areas like Cobourg, Stratford and Niagara are now placing restrictions on out-of-town visitors coming from COVID-19 “hotspots” like Toronto.
The Ale House in Coburg and Romby’s Tavern and Smokehouse in St. Catharines have both banned restaurant patrons who aren’t local to the area. At the Peterborough location of Castle John’s, which also has locations in Newcastle, Port Perry, Cobourg and Newmarket, management is also considering putting similar restrictions in place.
“With our locations that are open for dine-in being predominantly a fair distance from Toronto and other hotspots, so far we have not encountered many customers beyond our regular customer base,” a rep from Castle John’s wrote in an email. “If we start noticing an uptick of this at any of our locations, we will consider restrictions.”
The rep added that the restaurant has been “diligently adhering” to best health and safety practices in the meantime and continues to keep their website updated as plans change.
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Meanwhile, some restaurants in Stratford have been enforcing restrictions on out-of-town diners since June. Jessie Votary, the owner of Red Rabbit Restaurant in Stratford, says all Ramshackle Industries properties, including the Red Rabbit, AVEC, Old Man & Son and Pollo Morta, are currently barring diners who live beyond a 50-kilometre radius from the restaurant.
Votary notes that the restaurants make some exceptions for those who live outside this radius, but in smaller towns with low rates of COVID-19. She says that since these restrictions were put in place, they have been periodically adjusting the permitted radius based on the COVID-19 cases recorded in different areas of the province.
“Due to the decreased seating in the restaurant, with tables spaced six feet apart, we are doing our best to keep those seats available to our local guests who want to dine out, but also want to stay somewhat removed from folks who are still choosing to travel to tourist destinations like Stratford,” Votary says. “It is a difficult balance and not exactly a popular choice with tourists, but we have to put our staff and community safety at the forefront of our decision making.”
Other restaurants in Stratford are continuing to welcome diners from all areas. Keystone Alley, for example, says the restaurant has implemented the required COVID safety measures and they’re continuing to serve both locals and visitors to the city.
“We have gone over and above what is mandated by the government in regard to COVID precautions,” wrote Keystone Alley co-owner Kimberly Hurley in an email. “We are not turning diners away from out of town as we have not been instructed to do so.”