You can forgive restaurant owners for feeling under attack lately. In the last three weeks, they were ordered to close their indoor dining areas by the provincial government with little to no data to support the decision; they were set open by by-law officers enforcing an Ottawa Public Health ruling that at least two sides of their patio tents had to be left open and they were harangued by TSSA inspectors ordering them to remove their outdoor patio heaters.
It’s enough to make some of them want to turn off the lights and close their doors for good. And who could blame them? The mixed messaging between the city and the province combined with the lack of any meaningful consultation and communication is mindboggling.
For instance, city council voted last month to extend its temporary zoning bylaw allowing restaurants to expand their patios until the end of the year. At the time, most restaurants had already been providing indoor dining for their customers under Stage 3 of the provincial reopening guidelines.
The thought of keeping their patios open through November and into December was the farthest thing from their minds on Oct. 15. That’s the day the province gave them eight hours to close their dining rooms for 28 days leaving them scrambling to rent outdoor tents and patio heaters in order to accommodate their patrons during the closure.
You would think having extended the use of outdoor patios until the end of the year, the city would understand that to do so would require protection from the elements and heating. So what’s the first thing they do? They sent out bylaw officers to make sure at least two sides of the tent were open to provide adequate circulation and protection from the coronavirus.
Alrighty. No problem. But no sooner had the bylaw officers made their rounds then the TSSA inspectors started showing up and ordering the restaurants to turn off their patio heaters. Turns out you can’t use a residential patio heater for commercial use, or you can’t use them in an enclosed tent because of the potential for carbon monoxide poisoning even though the tents already have two sides open. Which begs the question – if having two sides open will prevent the transmission of the coronavirus, why would it not provide enough circulation to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning?
On top of everything else, now comes word that the TSSA folks are planning to come back to order the tents down because the potential of snow accumulating on the roof poses a potential hazard.
If you’re starting to get confused, imagine how restaurant owners feel while also having to worry about how they’re going to keep their heads above water until spring.
If the province and the TSSA are going to put up roadblock after roadblock to make the use of outdoor dining spaces as impractical as possible, they need to lift the moratorium on indoor dining when the 28 days are up on Nov. 13 and let the restaurants get back to operating under the protocols that were put in place on July 19. If not, it will be nearly impossible for many of them to survive the winter and a lot of lives will be destroyed through a combination of ignorance and idiocy.