Concerns raised over out-of-county visitors to Chatham-Kent during phase two
CHATHAM, ONT. -- Chatham-Kent has been cleared for phase two of the province's reopening and it's just in time for patio season.
Nail and hair salons, and restaurant patios are some of the businesses allowed to open as of Friday at 12:01 a.m in Chatham-Kent.
But will Chatham-Kent become a target destination for people from neighbouring regions that are still in phase one?
“Our phones are ringing off the hook,” says Tiffany Cunningham, manager of Mamma Maria’s Italian Eatery that sits on King Street in Chatham.
“We are getting a million emails, everyone wants to book a spot on the patio already,” she says.
Chatham-Kent has two regions nearby still in phase one, Windsor-Essex and Sarnia-Lambton.
That could cause a possible influx of out-of-towners making a day trip to Chatham for a dinner reservation on the patio; a luxury people haven’t been allowed to enjoy for months.
“We have had a lot of locals, but also we have ran into a lot of people calling from Windsor today saying they’re not reopening so they want to come here for reservations,” says Cunningham.
Just across the street from Mamma Maria’s is another popular restaurant, Frendz.
“We are kind of left questioning things,” said Julie Brooks, bartender and event coordinator for Frendz Restaurant & Lounge.
“What about the safety of our customers? If you have a lineup of people coming from out of town that are from high-risk areas, how do we stand, what can we do?” says Brooks.
New regulations for patios include keeping tables two metres apart from one another, which essentially means cutting patio seating in half.
Brooks and Cunningham are both excited to open their doors Friday but say they hope everyone respects the new rules and regulations and remain patient with staff.
Darrin Canniff, mayor of Chatham-Kent, says he is feeling overall excited about businesses reopening Friday, but admits there’s a concern for people coming from other communities that are still in phase one.
“People across Southwestern Ontario want to get out and will certainly look at Chatham-Kent as an opportunity to go to restaurants and get their hair done and nails...people will be coming here,” says Canniff.
Canniff says Chatham-Kent is fortunate to have no community transmission of COVID-19 to date.
“We’re waiting on our medical officer of health, he will be issuing a number of standards for these businesses to follow to keep people safe,” Canniff says.