Waterloo Region residents line up for retail stores, patios as they reopen under Step 1
KITCHENER -- People in Waterloo Region were lining up to head into retail stores and sit on patios as the area moves into Step 1 of Ontario's reopening plan.
Starting Friday at 12:01 a.m., patios could open with four people per table and non-essential retail could allow customers in at 15 per cent capacity. Essential retail stores, which can operate at 25 per cent capacity, no long have restrictions on what they're allowed to sell.
Many stores had long lineups on Friday morning, including around 150 people waiting to get into Marshalls at The Boardwalk. Customers outside the store were excited to go shopping after months on curbside pickup and deliveries.
"For me personally, it's Father's Day is coming, so I have some things to shop for and a few other items I have to get at my favourite store," said Belinda Macklam. "I imagine it'll be a 45-minute wait, but I don't care."
Many shopping plaza parking lots in the region were full throughout the day Friday.
"I was actually very excited. I couldn't sleep last night just knowing we are allowed to go back inside, we can go do our shopping, we can return things," said shopper Neil Dauz.
"I think our customers were excited to say the least to come in, we had a lien up for a few hours before we opened," said Best Buy Kitchener store leader Ryan Strachan.
"It's nice to get out and get what you need," said shopper Travis Stotz.
Friday also marked an exciting time for small business owners.
"I woke up with butterflies in my stomach," said Jennifer Devitt, owner of Devitt House, a home décor and gift store in Waterloo.
Morty's Pub also had a line up ahead of opening its patio and held a ribbon cutting ceremony ahead of customers sitting down at tables.
"We are happy to bring back our staff, we are happy to see our guests that we have missed so terribly," co-owner Jay Taylor said. "We are just so happy for everyone in our industry.
"We think today is just a wonderful, great day that we are going to remember for a long time."
Tables need to be at least six feet apart and customers need to stay seated while on the patio.
Business owners are asking people to be patient and kind when returning to stores and restaurants, since many staff members haven't been on the job for several months.
"I think businesses have learned a lot over the last year and a half," said Tracy Van Kalsbeek of Uptown Waterloo BIA. "They have learned to move quick than they have in the past to adapt to what the new protocols are."
Jody Palubiski, CEO of Charcoal Group, adds that the third round of reopening comes with a cautios sense of optimism due to the threat of the Delta variant still looming.
"It feels a little bit like we've been here before and had the carpet pulled out," she said. "But when I walk around and see the staff I'm very enthused and optimistic and hopeful about it."
However, not all retail has been given the green light to reopen. Stores in malls that don't have street access remain closed.
The Retail Council of Canada wants that to change.
"We are not only the only jurisdiction in North America but in the world that still has stores in malls closed," said Karl Littler, the retail council's vice president of public affairs.
Littler says it's disappointing that retail locations within malls are losing business to competitors who can reopen as part of Step 1.