Bar owners hesitate to resume dancing for Step 3 of Ontario's reopening
Manager Amanda Godinho watches the news on a television while working at Door Fifty Five bar and restaurant during the COVID-19 pandemic in the Port Credit neighbourhood of Mississauga, Ont., Friday, Oct. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
TORONTO -- For the first time in months, Ontarians can sweat it out on the dance floor on Friday night as the province pushes forward into Step 3 of its reopening plan, but some establishments are taking a back seat for the time being.
Ontario’s roadmap to reopening outlines that food and drink establishments with dance floors can resume indoors, as long as customers can keep a two metre distance, without exceeding a 250 person or 25 per cent capacity.
While there is excitement about returning to the dance floor, there is also hesitation.
Tal Adler, director of Xtreme Hospitality, says many of the 200 venues he consults are holding off on commencing dancing for now.
“We're not willing to risk it,” he said.
“A lot of people are getting threatened with getting their liquor licenses revoked if they're breaking rules. And getting a COVID-19 [enforcement] fine is one thing, but being threatened to lose your liquor licenses...it's not a road many people are willing to walk.”
Based on Step 3 of Ontario’s reopening plan, patrons at food and drink establishments with dancing must wear face coverings indoors and outdoors, while maintaining physical distance, unless they are with the same people seated at their table.
“What are we supposed to do? Like brothers and sisters are the only ones that can dance with each other? If they live in the same house? How are we supposed to maintain that?” Adler asked.
CTV News Toronto inquired with Ontario’s Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries about the guidance they would suggest to personnel who are simultaneously dancing and drinking, requiring them to remove their face covering.
In response, a media relations officer pointed to rules for restaurants and bars in Step 3, which states, “patrons are permitted to remove a mask or face covering temporarily to consume food or drink, or as may be necessary for the purposes of health and safety.”
Owner Jeff Cohen says he won’t be opening up Dance Cave, a decades-old indoor club known for its energetic dance floor at Bathurst and Bloor streets.
“It’s too risky,” he said. “People are going to have things to drink. [There's] no way they're going to be spaced and they're not going to wear a mask while they're dancing,” he said.
“And then you add in also the fact that if you're holding a drink, and you have to take your mask off….well, there you go,” Cohen added.
Another longstanding downtown Toronto establishment Cohen owns, the Horseshoe Tavern, will be opening its door on Friday night as an indoor bar.
Typically, the Horseshoe Tavern is open six days a week with a capacity of nearly 500 people. Now, he says they are operating at about 8 per cent of their normal capacity.
“I hope we're going to get to 100 per cent normal soon,” he said, “It’s a good start, but we're definitely not reopened.”