Lockdown regulation published for Ontario - Retail Council of Canada
Coronavirus | Ontario

Lockdown regulation published for Ontario

November 23, 2020

Sunday evening, November 22, 2020, Ontario publicly issued the regulation speaking to what precisely the lockdown rules are, which currently apply to Toronto and Peel Region. York Region will have a reassessment this week based on its numbers and may potentially follow Toronto and Peel into a lockdown if their numbers continue to rise.

View Regulation

Under the rules, the following retailers are deemed “essential”, and may continue to operate bricks and mortar locations with 50% capacity (number references section in Schedule 2 of regulation):

  • (2.1) Supermarkets and grocery stores;
  • (2.2) Convenience stores;
  • (2.3) Discount and big box retailers selling groceries;
  • (2.4) Hardware stores;
  • (2.5) Safety supply stores;
  • (2.6) Pharmacies;
  • (2.7) Stores, other than stores described in section 3, that sell liquor, including beer, wine and spirits;
  • (23) Businesses that provide pet services, including pet grooming services, pet sitting services, pet walking services and pet training services, including services for the training and provision of service animals (RCC is working to confirm this includes pet retail); and
  • (33) Telecommunications providers and services (phone, internet, radio, cell phones etc.) and facilities necessary for their operation and delivery.

Capacity Limits

Capacity limits for essential business is now defined as the smaller of:

  • A square metre figure that allows members of the public to maintain a physical distance of at least two metres from every other person in the business or facility; and
  • 50% of building code occupancy for any room.

For physical distancing capacity limits, click here to see a note from RCC on this topic. We recommend calculating total sales floor space, less fixtures, divided by 4m2.

For 50% of building code, retail spaces are typically classified as “Mercantile Uses”, and carry a 3.7m2 requirement – the 50% capacity rule effectively doubles that number. For the purposes of this calculation, take total floor sales floor space, and divided it by 7.4 m2.

Garden centres and plant nurseries may operate in one of two manners, either “by appointment”, or “in a manner that allows members of the public to remain in an outdoor area of the business at all times”.

All non-essential retailers are allowed to do curbside sales. The regulation states that all retail businesses may conduct business in “an alternative method of sale that does not require customers to enter the indoor area of the business, including curb side pick-up or delivery”. This applies to all businesses with “a public entrance that opens onto a street or exterior sidewalk”, and applies to businesses with “an entrance facing into a shopping mall”. To be clear – even a business with no external facing entrance in a mall may conduct curbside sales.

Malls are allowed to remain open for the “purpose of accessing a business or place that is permitted to be open under this Order”. Because of how the curbside rules are framed, this could include indoor pickup from non-essential businesses conducting alternate forms of business. Further to that, a mall may establish designated locations for the purpose of allowing businesses to pick-up orders, which may be inside, or adjacent to the mall.

Next Steps

Retailers have gone to extraordinary lengths to keep employees and customers safe and so shutting down retail during the holidays – the most critical time of year for earnings – is devastating. This is even more difficult as there is no clear line being drawn between shutting down non-essential retail stores and better health outcomes. For example, Peel Region Public Health data demonstrates that, for the month of November (up to November 22, 2020 the day before the lockdown), retail represented 19 cases of the 7,805 – about 0.25% of cases.

To convey this narrative strongly to the Ontario government, we have requested a meeting between our CEO and Premier Ford. Despite a tenuous relationship between retail and COVID-19 case numbers, our members are willing to go above and beyond in order to ensure the health and safety of every person entering their store premise. To that end, we propose creating two new, non-essential bricks and mortar classes.

For retailers:

  • Capacity of 25%; (minimum of three customers at a time, not exceeding 25% of building occupancy)
  • A staffed front door, with temperature checks for customers; (with consideration giving to independent retailers and their ability to provide this safeguard);
  • Masks for all customers;
  • Aisle markets to control customer traffic;
  • Minimum of 24-hour quarantining for returned and tried-on product;
  • Closure of fitting rooms;
  • Plexiglass or equivalent screen at cashier; and,
  • Markers outside of the store, and at cash indicating physical distancing.

A 28 day lockdown is a blunt instrument and we stress the importance of reserving judgement on what the next four weeks might look like. A graduated approach, taken day-by-day is a more appropriate approach being urged for by our members. Immediately, we would ask that the Ontario government to reassess the lockdown in real-time, day-by-day, taking into account actual evidence from the caseload of new COVID-19 case numbers.

For more information, email Sebastian Prins at sprins@retailcouncil.org.