First Ontario businesses prepare to reopen as COVID-19 regulations loosen
TORONTO -- A few Ontario businesses will reopen their doors starting at midnight on Monday after the provincial government decided to loosen some COVID-19 restrictions.
From garden centres to golf courses, a number of businesses originally considered non-essential, will slowly be able ramp up their services, and for some, it couldn't come sooner enough.
"We do about 70 per cent of our business in 12 weeks," Mark Cullen, a gardening expert and spokesperson for Landscape Ontario, told CTV News. “The big period is the month of May. Without it, our industry is lost, it's just lost."
Starting Monday, garden centres and nurseries will be able to provide shoppers with curb-side pickup and delivery service only. It's something many were already doing, relying on online shopping while their doors were closed. Cullen said the demand has never been greater.
"People who garden, who live in Ontario, want to have access to plants. They want to have access to the experience they have in the garden which is good for body, mind and soul, and they want to be able to feed themselves. The way to do that is to access the plants, the supplies, and even the advice that's available at your local garden retailer."
For now, the retailers will not be able to allow customers inside their garden centres and greenhouses, where Cullen says over 450 million dollars worth of plants are waiting to be sold. He believes shoppers could safely be allowed back inside following the same protocols currently in place in grocery stores.
"Every province in the country but Ontario, their independent garden centre, their chain garden centres are open for business. Obviously with the appropriate safety protocols, that goes without saying. But why not Ontario?"
Landscapers and landscape companies can get to work starting Monday, and so too can marinas that service boats. They can start putting them back in the water. They will not be allowed to open to the public, and the boats must remain secured to a dock. Auto dealerships may open again, but only by appointment. So too can automatic and self-serve carwashes. Employees at many of the businesses that are reopening will be using new guidelines regarded social distancing, and other protocols to stop the spread of COVID-19.
"The challenge has been the unknown,” Mike Kelly, the executive director of Golf Ontario told CTV News Toronto. Starting tomorrow, golf courses may begin maintenance work, but it could still be some time before golfers are allowed to tee off again.
According to Golf Ontario, there are more than 110 thousand people employed in the golf industry in Ontario, many in part-time and seasonal work. But as more than 800 courses get ready to welcome back golfers, there will likely be many changes for those who love the game.
The changes could include everything from paying green fees online, to using single user golf carts to maintain social distancing.
"We've been spending quite a bit of time on this, we've looked at what other provinces are having to deal with when it comes to the health measures from a chief medical officer, or the province,” he said.
Both Kelly and Cullen say they believe this could be a great season for their respective pursuits, with both golf and gardening being activities that can be done at a social distance and allow people to get outside in good weather.
Cullen said he thinks new people are being drawn to gardening during the pandemic.
"I've never had such a demand for content, for information. Questions [on] how do I get started, I've never gardened before? What can I grow? Here's my exposure what can I grow? These are the kind of questions we're getting every day."
Kelly said that while he and other golfers are itching to get back on the greens, they'll only do so when it's safe.
"Whether you're a golfer or you're operating a golf course, all of us do want to get back on the golf course, but our priority … has been health and safety."