MIDDLESEX CENTRE, ONT. -- As of Friday you can once again enjoy a cold one outdoors, as patios reopen for outdoor dining.

The move to Step One of the Roadmap to Reopen, set by the province, was expected to happen by June 14, but it was announced that it will actually happen this Friday, three days earlier than expected.

Restaurant owners in Wortley Village, eagerly prepared their patios Monday morning for the weekend.

“Totally excited about it, I think finally we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel here,” says Jeff Rowe, co-owner of Old South Village Pub.

After weeks of serving only takeout orders, Rowe happily set up his patio.

‘We take great pride at six foot distancing, servers wearing masks, everyone wearing glasses. We were following the guidelines to the T, I think that was the frustrating part about restaurants being closed, because we were doing everything in accordance with the rules we had, for us we are ready to go.”

The rules are four people per table with exceptions for larger households.

There is no capacity limitations as long as two metres of space can be enforced between tables.

It’s a long time coming for many patient Londoners.

‘I just cannot wait, I just feel like I could run on Friday morning to a patio and sit right there,” says MJ.

The Wortley Roadhouse and Patio

The Wortley Roadhouse and Patio in London, Ont. on June 7, 2021. (Jordyn Read/CTV London)

Owner of Wortley Roadhouse & Patio, David Monture, brushed off the patio seats to make room for the neighbourhood regulars Monday.

‘It’s nice to see we are heading in the right direction…I hope we haven’t jumped the gun, I am obviously very very happy we are opening but let’s hope this is the last one and that we have gotten’ through the worst.”

Along with restaurants reopening patios, retail stores can open their doors once more for in-store shopping.

‘’We’re opening Friday, we are pumped,” says Leah Montoux store manager of Curiosities in Wortley Village.

Retail stores can open at 15 per cent capacity, 25 per cent for stores deemed essential and all items, deemed essential or not, can be sold.

Middlesex-London’s medical officer of health, Dr. Chris Mackie, advises everyone to keep safety front of mind.

He says while a fourth wave of COVID-19 may be coming, he does not expect it to happen before the fall.

“I believe we will continue to see case counts that are relatively low over the summer, particularly with the vaccine campaign coming on top of the seasonality of the virus. But I would not be surprised if we do see additional waves of COVID coming through in a seasonal way in fall and winter of next year.”

Provincial officials say vaccination rates and key indicators including the case rate and number of COVID-19 patients in Intensive Care Units made the move possible.

In a statement, Ontario Premier Doug Ford praised the success of the province's vaccine rollout team, adding, “The only reason we’re able to (enter step one) is because of the enormous sacrifices made by individuals, families and communities across Ontario. As we begin to enjoy the benefits of the first step in our roadmap like meeting friends on a patio or visiting your favourite local store, please do so safely by continuing to follow all public health guidelines.”

Among the biggest changes that come in Step One are:

  • outdoor social gatherings and organized public events with up to 10 people allowed
  • outdoor religious services, rites, or ceremonies, including wedding services and funeral services, capped at the number of people that can maintain a physical distance of two metres
  • indoor religious services, rites, or ceremonies, including wedding services and funeral services permitted at up to 15 per cent capacity of the particular room
  • non-essential retail permitted at 15 per cent capacity, with no restrictions on the goods that can be sold
  • essential and other select retail permitted at 25 per cent capacity, with no restrictions on the goods that can be sold
  • outdoor dining with up to four people per table, with exceptions for larger households
  • outdoor fitness classes, outdoor groups in personal training and outdoor individual/team sport training to be permitted with up to 10 people, among other restrictions
  • day camps for children permitted to operate in a manner consistent with the safety guidelines for COVID-19
  • overnight camping at campgrounds and campsites, including Ontario Parks, and short-term rentals
  • concert venues, theatres and cinemas may open outdoors for the purpose of rehearsing or performing a recorded or broadcasted concert, artistic event, theatrical performance or other performance with no more than 10 performers, among other restrictions
  • outdoor horse racing tracks and motor speedways permitted to operate without spectators
  • outdoor attractions such as zoos, landmarks, historic sites, botanical gardens with capacity and other restrictions

Additional details of what is allowed in Stage 1 can be found here.

In a statement, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott added, “While this is exciting news, as we move to enter Step One of Ontario’s Roadmap it remains critical that all Ontarians continue to follow public health advice and roll up their sleeves to receive the vaccine.”