No more capacity limits in Ontario restaurants, bars, gyms as part of Step 3 exit strategy

"Like a weight has been lifted off your shoulder," says Barrie bar and nightclub owner

Christmas Day is exactly two months away, though, for Chris Gerrard, co-owner and operator of the Queen’s Hotel, it arrived today on Monday, October 25.

Capacity limits in Ontario restaurants, bars, gyms, casinos, and other non-essential indoor settings that require proof-of-vaccination are no longer in effect.

“Everyone here is ecstatic,” says Gerrard. “It’s been a long wait. It’s like a weight has been lifted off our shoulders.”


The province announced details of its long-term COVID-19 reopening strategy on Friday.

The situation is unique at the Queen’s Hotel. Only half of their side gets full capacity, as capacity restrictions at nightclubs will remain in place until mid-November. You won’t get many complaints from Gerrard. In fact, he says it’s a nice pace for the business to start that way.

At CrossFit Barrie, co-owner Samantha Pereira da Silva says the lockdowns were tougher than capacity restrictions because they could have no one inside the facility, so they moved all of their fitness online.

“We’ve been able to cap our classes at whatever capacity we were allowed to at the time. That’s how we managed through.”

Federal government urged to extend COVID emergency benefits

Monday’s lifting of capacity restrictions is exactly where Pereira da Silva wants to be.

“We don’t have to worry about class caps. We can open it up to whoever wants to come into class without having to be put on a waitlist,” she says. “We’ll be able to run an event, whether it’s a competition or a member’s barbecue because we don’t have any restrictions on how many people can be in the gym.”

If there are people who are not comfortable coming in, CrossFits will share its programming with those individuals and they can do the workouts at home.

“I am hoping it’s the light at the end of the tunnel,” she says. “It’s been long enough, and things are getting better.”

As of Monday, capacity limits have also been lifted in the following settings, if they choose to require proof of vaccination:

  • Personal care services (e.g., barber shops, salons, body art);
  • Indoor areas of museums, galleries, aquariums, zoos, science centres, landmarks, historic sites, botanical gardens and similar attractions;
  • Indoor areas of amusement parks;
  • Indoor areas of fairs, rural exhibitions, festivals;
  • Indoor tour and guide services;
  • Boat tours;
  • Indoor areas of marinas and boating clubs;
  • Indoor clubhouses at outdoor recreational amenities;
  • Open house events provided by real estate agencies; and
  • Indoor areas of photography studios and services.

Premier Doug Ford said on Friday the steps being taken in Ontario were part of a “gradual, cautious approach to manage COVID-19 now and moving forward.”

“We’re sticking with what’s worked for our province,” Ford said at a news conference. “This is a cautious plan. It slowly lifts public health measures over time, allowing us to monitor any impacts on our hospitals and in our communities. It provides Ontarians and businesses with the certainty they need to make the plans of their own.”

Timeline of Ontario’s plan to lift public health measures beyond October 25:

November 15, 2021

The government intends to lift capacity limits in the remaining higher-risk settings where proof of vaccination is required, including food or drink establishments with dance facilities (e.g., nightclubs, wedding receptions in meeting/event spaces where there is dancing); strip clubs, bathhouses, and sex clubs.

January 17, 2022

In the absence of concerning trends in public health and health care following the winter holiday months and after students returned to in-class learning, the province intends to begin gradually lifting capacity limits in settings where proof of vaccination is not required. The Chief Medical Officer of Health will also lift CMOH directives as appropriate.

Proof of vaccination requirements may also begin to be gradually lifted at this time, including for restaurants, bars and other food and drink establishments, facilities used for sports and recreational facilities and casinos, bingo halls, and other gaming establishments.

February 7, 2022

The government intends to lift proof of vaccination requirements in high-risk settings, including nightclubs, strip clubs, and bathhouses and sex clubs.

March 28, 2022

At this time, it is intended that remaining public health and workplace safety measures will be lifted, including wearing face coverings in indoor public settings. Recommendations may be released for specific settings, if appropriate.

In addition, the provincial requirement for proof of vaccination will be lifted for all remaining settings, including meeting and event spaces, sporting events, concerts, theatres and cinemas, racing venues, and commercial and film productions with studio audiences.

To manage COVID-19 over the long term, local and regional responses by public health units will be deployed based on local context and conditions. Public health measures that may be applied locally could include reintroducing capacity limits and/or physical distancing, reducing gathering limits, and adding settings where proof of vaccination is required, among others. Public health measures would be implemented provincially in exceptional circumstances, such as when the province’s health system capacity is at risk of becoming overwhelmed or if a vaccine-resistant COVID-19 variant is identified in the province.