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Ontario bars & restaurants stewing over capacity limits, as NHL rinks about to host thousands

Inside a Firkin Pub
Firkin Pubs
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Firkin Pubs is among the businesses opposed to Ontario's capacity limits for bars and restaurants.

A battle is shaping up between the Ontario government and bar and restaurant owners. It‘s over capacity limits.

On Wednesday night, the Toronto Maple Leafs play their opening game of the NHL hockey season to a crowd of thousands. That has many restaurant owners in the province angry and frustrated because their capacity limits haven’t changed.

They launched a campaign over the weekend to have the COVID-19 restrictions on their business brought into line with large sports venues and concert halls.

“I think we spent most of the weekend being shocked and stunned at the announcement, trying to understand how you can allow up to 20,000 people to sit next to one another, taking their masks off, drinking shouting, screaming and yet we’ve got capacity limits on the patio," said Larry Isaacs with Firkin Pubs, which has two dozen locations across the province. "How does that make any common sense at all?"

Some sources said the government of Premier Doug Ford tried to calm the unrest by planning a virtual meeting between the tourism and culture minister and businesses on Tuesday, but she failed to attend. There was no explanation.

Some in the hospitality industry said the Ford government has no plan for them — and yet they employ 450,000 people in Ontario’s restaurant businesses. John Sinopoli, the founder of Save Hospitality CA, said without a plan, the province could soon be faced with civil disobedience.