A pair of regular bar patrons who went on a bender in Ottawa while they awaited COVID-19 tests are being blamed for the closure of several establishments. The two men’s tests eventually came back positive.
Two bar owners said the actions of the men, who are in their mid-40s, have put a lot of people at risk, not to mention the toll it’s done on business.
“We’ve been doing everything we’re supposed to be doing, and then to have two people come in like this and jeopardize that, it’s crazy, it’s maddening,” one owner told the Ottawa Citizen. The two proprietor spoke to the outlet on condition of anonymity for fear of the effect it would have on their businesses.
In the past week, five restaurants and pubs close to or on Elgin Street, a popular downtown strip, have closed, as staff members await test results. Some of the establishments have since opened or are slated to reopen soon.
One pub, Waller Street Brewing, was forced to close for 14 days after it confirmed that one staff member tested positive for the virus.
The two men in question revealed their positive tests last Friday. One of the problematic patrons, who is a public servant, said he’d been tested on Tuesday after being informed he’d been in close proximity to someone who tested positive for the virus. On Thursday he found out he also tested positive, after going on a drinking spree along Elgin Street. The two men are known as patrons who do not observe physical distancing. As a result, hundreds of restaurant employees, from cooks to servers, have to isolate and be tested for the virus.
One of the men in question later admitted his fault in a text message.
“I made a mistake and now I’m trying to find ways to lessen the repurcussions (sic),” he wrote. “I’m scared and I know I made a terrible mistake that has now jeopardized not just myself but my friends and their livelihoods. I never realized the far-reaching consequences of my actions. Not being symptomatic gave me a false sense of security and allowed me to make terrible decisions.”
While the bar owners declined to identify the customers in question, they guaranteed that they would never be allowed back in their businesses.
“I want people to know the difference between bars’ being responsible and the individuals’ coming to those bars being responsible,” one said. “We took all the steps. We’ve turned away a tonne of business because people aren’t safe enough.”
Things aren’t expected to get much better for bar and restaurant owners in Ontario, at least not in the coming weeks. Ottawa, Toronto and Peel, regions considered to be COVID-19 hotspots, are bracing for the possibility of reverting back to Stage 2. That would mean that services are limited to outdoor dining, such as on patios, curbsides, parking lots and adjacent premises. Customers would also only be allowed to access indoor facilities to get to the patio or outdoor dining areas, food pickup, for payments, to use the washrooms or for health and safety purposes.
Currently, all bars and restaurants in the province have a last call of 11:00 p.m. and must close by midnight, with the exception of takeout and delivery. Staff members also must screen all visitors. All strip clubs in Ontario are closed for business.
Earlier this week, Ontario’s Health Minister Christine Elliott said the provincial government wants to avoid moving back to Stage 2 “unless we absolutely have to.”