Ontario stores and restaurants were teeming with customers as they began reopening on Friday as the province lifted some of its COVID-19 restrictions for the first time in months.
Patios that have sat empty since last year were filled with diners and lively conversation once more while stores had lines snaking down the street as customers rushed to buy goods they’ve had to purchase online or do without.
The return of dining out and in-store retail comes as Ontario eases its COVID-19 measures, which now allow up to four people per table or entire households to eat together on outdoor patios.
The province is also permitting non-essential retailers to operate at 15 percent capacity and with no limitations on what goods they can sell.
Carolina Lagos, who lined up outside a Winners in Oakville, Ont. on Friday morning, was thrilled with the return of in-person shopping because her three growing kids were in need of shoes.
Just as excited to see restrictions lifted was Susan Ames, a Mississauga, Ont. woman who took the day off work to celebrate.
She kicked off reopening with a shopping trip to Giant Tiger before heading with her family to the nearby Symposium Cafe, where she had made reservations as soon as she learned patio dining would be permitted.
The courtyard of this restaurant seems to be already accommodating with diners sitting under brightly coloured umbrellas on tables spaced apart at around 11 am.
The restaurant’s small patio appeared to be at capacity with diners sitting under brightly coloured umbrellas at spaced-out tables around 11 a.m. local time.
“To see this many out this early is really good news,” said the cafe’s manager, Matthew Burnip.
He saw sales plummet to one-fifth of their normal rate during the pandemic because his café had to operate solely through takeout and couldn’t allow customers to enjoy its large dining area.
Business owners like Burnip are hopeful this will be the last time they have to lock down as COVID-19 cases in Ontario have been falling for months.
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