Ontario strip clubs shuttered, early last call for bars, restaurants amid COVID spike

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Ontario is shutting down all strip clubs and limiting alcohol sale hours in bars, restaurants and night clubs as it battles a spike in coronavirus cases.

It is the second major rollback of Stage 3 conditions in the province, having already reduced the permitted size of social gatherings to 10 indoors and 25 outdoors.

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said the past few weeks have shown a worrisome increase in COVID-19 cases.

“When we see a doubling of case numbers every ten days that indicates that it’s time to act,” Elliott said Friday.

Public health officials say private social gatherings remain a significant source of transmission in many communities, but there have also been outbreak clusters in restaurants, bars, food and drink establishments, including strip clubs, particularly among people aged 20 to 39.

Bars and restaurants have been ordered to close their doors to customers at midnight beginning Friday night.

Starting Saturday, last call at licensed establishments will be 11 p.m. and patrons will need to have stopped consuming alcohol by midnight.

Restaurants and bars will be expected to remain closed from midnight to 5 a.m. except for takeout or delivery.

No alcohol can be consumed on the premises between midnight and 9 a.m.

“These measures also include the closure of all adult entertainment clubs — and by that we mean strip clubs — and require businesses to comply with any advice, recommendations and instructions issued by the office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health on screening individuals who wish to enter their businesses,” Elliott said. “These measures are designed to address the rapid spread in community transmission in order to keep schools, post secondary institutions and businesses open and of course to protect our most vulnerable residents.”

Premier Doug Ford said the number of COVID-19 cases went from about 100 a day to more than 400 a day in a matter of a few weeks.

Ontario reported 409 new cases Friday.

Mayors have asked his government to order bars closed earlier in the evening, and Ford said he doesn’t believe it’s a “huge ask” that licensed establishments close a few hours early.

A group of 38 influential doctors went public this week to urge the Doug Ford government to place much tighter restrictions on restaurants and bars to prevent a strong second wave of the coronavirus.

The doctors went even further, calling on the government to ask non-essential businesses to allow employees to work from home and to recommend colleges and universities offer as many programs online as possible.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said Ford is scrambling to keep up with the surge in cases, leaving the province facing another health and economic disaster.

“Once again, Doug Ford’s actions are weeks late, incomplete and contradict his own claims,” Horwath said in a statement.

The Premier had previously stated he had confidence in the operators of restaurants and bars to follow public health measures and did not consider them a major source of COVID-19 infections.

He also noted these were often family-owned businesses that had suffered significant losses during the lockdown.