Docs before chefs.
“I have to listen to the health professionals and we see the numbers going up and we’re concerned about that,” he told reporters Friday in Picton when asked why thousands of restaurants and bars are being limited to outdoor and takeout service.
“I hate shutting it down, I absolutely hate it. I understand what it takes to meet payroll (and) take care of a business.”
Ford’s comments came as Restaurants Canada, a 40,000-member industry association, launched a public-relations blitz with newspaper ads appealing to politicians to allow indoor dining and drinking.
The organization predicted the ban on indoor service will cost 33,000 jobs in Toronto, 14,900 in Peel Region, 12,000 in Ottawa, and 8,800 in York Region.
“Picture life without restaurants,” says one newspaper ad, noting the sector “is being singled out and we deserve to understand why.”
Celebrity chef and restaurateur Mark McEwan took to Twitter to appeal directly to the premier and to Toronto Mayor John Tory.
“Doug Ford needs to lead Ontario back to work safely. Shutdowns are a mistake. Do the right thing and lead the economy back!! BOLD LEADERSHIP… Be brave, Doug Ford,” wrote McEwan.
“Boggles my mind that John Tory is not leading the back to work safely message. The city is dying. Wake up!!” added the former Top Chef Canada judge and the owner of Bymark, ONE Restaurant, and the McEwan gourmet food shops.
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Ford insisted he has “a great deal of respect for Mark McEwan.”
“He’s a great entrepreneur, one of the great restaurant owners and, unfortunately, Mark’s not a medical professional. He’s a business owner. I respect the what he’s saying, but … we have to focus on the health and the safety of everyone across the province,” the premier said.
Health Minister Christine Elliott said “what we have to look at and listen to is the scientific clinical evidence” and restrict hospitality service to patios to limit new coronavirus infections.
“I certainly understand Mr McEwan’s frustration. We’ve been advised by our public health measures table, by Dr. (David) Williams and his team that these are measures that we need to take in order to stop the community spread of COVID-19,” said Elliott.
“There are some economic points of assistance that we will be providing,” she said, adding the health officials are hopeful the 28-day lockdowns in the four most-afflicted regions will “will flatten the curve, bring the numbers down to a more manageable level, not overwhelm our hospitals.”
As first disclosed by the Star two weeks ago, the Progressive Conservatives are making permanent the temporary pandemic measure that allows restaurants and bars to sell beer, wine and spirits to go.
That liberalization, which polls suggest is very popular with Ontarians, is designed to help struggling businesses keep afloat.
Associate Minister of Small Business Prabmeet Sarkaria has introduced legislation cutting red tape to help restaurants, bars, and shops.
Sarkaria also said there would be one-time grants of up to $1,000 for small businesses with fewer than 10 employees to defray the cost of personal protective equipment for workers.
Robert Benzie is the Star’s Queen’s Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie
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