We’re coming up on Barrie’s second Open Air Dunlop of the year, and if its anything like last weekend, it’s going to be very well received.
The City of Barrie started its program a week earlier than expected last Saturday, closing down Dunlop Street to motorized traffic, from the Five Points to Mulcaster. The pedestrianization of the main drag not only gave folks more elbow room in a time of physical distancing, but it also coincided with the reopening of many restaurant patios as part of the province’s multi-step plan. On Friday, the Downtown Barrie Business Association (Barrie BIA) announced Open Air Dunlop would extend to 3 a.m. Sunday.
Colin Johnson, General Manager of Donaleigh’s Group of Restaurants, said the program is a real boon for downtown businesses. “It was great. It was just awesome to see people out and about. The response from the public was overwhelmingly positive,” Johnson told Barrie 360. “It was just nice to see people out again, because we’ve been stuck with a tea and a takeout model for the last four months and it gets a little monotonous at times.”
Johnson says he hopes the program can continue running, and that patios can remain open throughout. “Honestly, throughout this whole thing, we’ve really been worried about the mental health of our staff,” he said. “We did have to lay a lot of them off during the various shutdowns, and I will emphasize the various shutdowns, just because it was kind of a yo-yo effect; you bring staff back, you lay them off, you bring them back, you lay them off. Hopefully, we’re open for good this time because just seeing the look in their eyes when they got to come back to work was enough for me to keep going.”
In the meantime, he says there are still plenty of COVID rules to keep in mind while on the patio. “We still have social distancing in place, there are still restrictions, it’s four people per table. We ask that the any interaction between tables is kept to a minimum just because we don’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable when they’re down here. So that’s just, for us, that’s the best way moving forward.”
Barrie BIA chairperson and city councillor Sergio Morales told Barrie 360 via email customers were on their best behaviour during the first Open Air Dunlop of the season. “Very positive feedback from business owners. Restaurants said customers were patient with the lineups, and staff worked tirelessly,” Morales adds the second Open Air Dunlop of the season should see more open doors as well. “A number of retail merchants decided to take the extra week to prepare better for the next one. I’m also heading a desire for food-based businesses to extend their hours.”
Dunlop Street will be closed to vehicular traffic first thing Saturday morning, reopening at 3 a.m. Sunday.