Ontario further tightens shutdown restrictions - Retail Council of Canada
Coronavirus | Ontario

Ontario further tightens shutdown restrictions

April 7, 2021

Ontario has moved to tighten the current province-wide shutdown with enhanced restrictions that came into effect at 12:01am on Thursday, April 8, 2021. The order is expected to last for at least four weeks, hopefully ending May 6, 2021.

Under the new restrictions, all non-essential retail will be closed for in-person sales and will be limited to curbside pick-up only. Essential businesses such as grocery and pharmacy can remain open at the reduced capacity restrictions that were already in place (50% capacity). Please consult RCC’s Capacity Calculator to determine the number of customers allowed within your store.

The essential business list has been slightly broadened frofm the one that was in place in late December 2020. The new definitions, along with their capacity restrictions, are as follows:

50% capacity:

  • Supermarkets, grocery stores, convenience stores, indoor farmers’ markets and other stores that primarily sell food; and,
  • Pharmacies.

25% capacity:

  • Big Box and discount stores selling grocery; and,
  • Garden centres.

By appointment only:

  • Safety supply stores;
  • Businesses that sell, rent or repair assistive/mobility/medical devices, aids and/or supplies;
  • Optical stores that sell prescription eyewear to the public; and,
  • Retail stores operated by a telecommunications provider for repairs or technical support and for the purchase of phones.

For big box and discount selling grocery there are new “roping off” requirements. Those retailers may only sell products in-store that are related to grocery, pet products, household cleaning, pharmaceuticals, health care, and personal care. In other words, a big box store will have to rope off any aisle not in the above categories.

Curbside rules are identical to those put in place on Boxing Day 2020. This means customers need to order in advance, with no indoor access to the premises (e.g., for POS systems). In addition, there is no store-by-store curbside in malls which means that all curbside sales will run through one centralized location. RCC will continue to advocate for more flexibility here.

There are new restrictions on hours of operation for non-essential retailers (including for curbside) in that no transaction can occur outside of 7 a.m. to 8 p.m, or from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. for deliveries. However, staff can enter the premises outside during these hours. For further clarity, nothing prevents a customer from purchasing a good online outside of those times, however, a retailer may not give the purchased item to the customer outside of 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. for curbside, or from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m for delivery.

There is an exemption for fly-in communities in that the roping-off clause does not apply.

Finally, these new restrictions are paired with a “stay-at-home” order meaning that Ontarians should only leave their home for essential purposes only (note: shopping in-store or curbside is deemed an essential purpose under the regulation).

Today’s changes can be found here in the regulation and will eventually be consolidated into O. Reg 82/20


  • RCC had initially been made to understand that pet stores would be allowed to open at 25%, but our current understanding is that they cannot open under the current regulations. We are actively working with the government to see if pet stores can be categorized as essential.
  • Previously, RCC reported that there would be a “roping off” requirement for all essential business. Our current understanding of the regulation is that roping off is only for big box and discount stores selling grocery (and only that category). As such, there are no restrictions on what a grocery store can sell. Big box and discount retailer may only sell products in-store that are related to grocery/food, household cleaning, pharmaceuticals, health care and personal care. In other words, a big box store will have to rope off any aisle not in the above categories.

For questions or more information contact

Sebastian Prins
Director, Government Relations (Ontario)