‘Very good day’: business reaction to capacity limit elimination positive

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Winnipeg small-business owner Paul Taylor welcomes Friday’s announcement by the provincial government to drop capacity limits, as part of sweeping COVID-19 public health order changes coming into effect Tuesday.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 11/02/2022 (233 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Winnipeg small-business owner Paul Taylor welcomes Friday’s announcement by the provincial government to drop capacity limits, as part of sweeping COVID-19 public health order changes coming into effect Tuesday.

“This is definitely good news,” said the owner of Brickhouse Gym on King Edward Street. “The biggest benefit is for our members not to have to completely move their days around (to meet capacity limits). They can just go in their car and come to get a workout.”

Be it the owner of a gymnasium or restaurant or music school, head of a museum or organizations which represent businesses — all welcomed the change.

JESSICA LEE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Paul Taylor, owner of Brickhouse Gym: “This is definitely good news.”

Tony Siwicki, owner of Silver Heights restaurant in Winnipeg, said after two years of public health orders that have been crushing for the hospitality industry: “I’m trying to soak it all in.”

“There’s a lot of stress off the shoulders. We’ve been fighting for this for a long time, and this is sooner than we thought. We were anticipating lesser restrictions on Feb. 22. To get it this morning, it is a big shock, but we will get moving,” he said.

Siwicki, who is also chairman of the Manitoba Restaurant & Foodservices Association, said he has already heard from some serving staff they’re not comfortable with the removal of the mask order March 15. He will be having a staff meeting on the weekend to discuss options.

As well as masks, the Manitoba government said Friday all remaining restrictions will end March 15.

“I’m sure some (in the industry) will continue wearing them,” said Siwicki. “They say they will continue to wear them in respect of the customers who might not be comfortable without them.”

Canadian Federation of Independent Business (Manitoba) provincial affairs director Kathleen Cook said consumer confidence will take awhile to come back. She said only about 24 per cent of small businesses in the province have seen sales levels return to pre-pandemic levels.

“It has been a long road… but we’re not out of the woods yet. They are dealing with ongoing labour shortages and consumer confidence is not what it was before,” Cook said.

“But this is a very good day for a lot of small businesses.”

Robert Burton, owner of River Heights School of Music in Winnipeg, said the changes may allow the school to do something it hasn’t for a long time.

“We haven’t had a music recital in two years,” said Burton. “For a lot of people, this is the day we’ve been waiting for.”

Dorota Blumczynska, Manitoba Museum chief executive officer, said: “It is certainly good news.”

“The Manitoba Museum has over 50,000 square feet of roaming space. Even with or without capacity limits, people themselves can distance from each other depending on their comfort levels… I’m cautiously optimistic. We are all deeply interested in the health and safety of our community,” she said.

Andre Lewis, Royal Winnipeg Ballet artistic director and CEO, said the Feb. 25 to March 13 production of Sleeping Beauty will remain virtual, with spectators watching it on a computer screen or TV.

However, the lifting of restrictions means its production of A Cinderella Story could be before a full house at the Centennial Concert Hall in May. “I’m very much hoping Cinderella will be on the stage,” said Lewis.

Loren Remillard, president and CEO of the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce, said he’s glad the government has provided a plan to reopen, with dates to look towards.

“We knew we’d always come to this day, when we would have to think about moving away from vaccination mandates and the use of masks,” said Remillard.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Tony Siwicki, owner of Silver Heights Restaurant and Lounge.

“The message the chamber has had is: make sure you provide sufficient lead time for businesses and the timeline for changes. Today’s announcement reflects that recommendation,” he added.

“We always want to keep business open to the full extent it can be, but consumer confidence will ultimately address the reopening. People are still making decisions based on their personal comfort levels.”

Remillard said he expects to see a number of people still wearing masks six months from now, and some businesses will continue to tell customers to wear them inside after March 15.

“The choice for you to continue to use a mask remains your choice,” he said. “I would hope all Manitobans will respect it will be that company’s choice.”

Jeff Traeger, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 832, which represents about 8,000 employees at grocery stores in Manitoba, said he hasn’t yet spoken to membership.

However, more than a dozen made contact with him Friday.

“It was a very small subset of almost 8,000 workers we represent, but they say this feels way too soon to remove the mask mandate,” said Traeger.

“It took months to put safety measures in place and they they are taking them away so quickly, they say it isn’t right.”

Traeger said some store workers say, even with restrictions in place, people buy groceries without masks on.

“One member says he is the risk to his family because of the number of people he has contact with every day… Every employer has had a high levels of absenteeism because the employees are sick or isolating,” he said.

“There are so many people off work right now, I’m not sure if the employers want this.”

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason
Reporter

Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.

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