A demonstration organized by frustrated small-business owners will take place Friday in Orillia.
Melanie Robinson, owner of Eclectic Café, and Max Lamontagne, owner of Lone Wolf Café, are asking fellow business owners and residents to join them at 3 p.m. in front of Simcoe North MPP Jill Dunlop’s office on Coldwater Road to protest the restrictions small businesses are facing during the region’s third lockdown since the COVID-19 pandemic began a year ago.
“We’ve done nothing but follow guidelines during the pandemic,” Robinson said. “We’re not denying that COVID exists and we’re not denying that it’s transmissible, but it’s not the small businesses that are responsible.”
She took issue with the fact the latest lockdown announcement for Simcoe County and Muskoka was announced late on a Friday afternoon, leaving businesses scrambling.
“We were just left in the dark,” she said.
“I understand there’s a new variant, but how did it get here? It’s because they didn’t shut down the flights,” she added.
Robinson said she is “constantly incurring new costs to do something else” amid tighter restrictions and she feels the government should ease up on smaller businesses like hers.
“It’s OK to say, ‘We made a mistake.’ I think they’d get more respect that way,” she said.
Friday’s demonstration will be a way “to say that we stand together and this is unacceptable,” she said.
Lamontagne also feels small businesses are being unfairly targeted during the latest lockdown.
“I’m not a COVID denier or an anti-masker, but my opinion is they’re attacking the wrong issue here. It’s not small businesses. It’s schools, big box stores, factories and gatherings,” he said. “We want them to look at the data, but they’re basically throwing a dart in the dark.”
The organizers said they will be following safety protocols Friday by maintaining distance and wearing masks. They ask anyone who attends to do the same.