SooToday received the following letter from JJ Hilsinger, the owner of The Watertower Inn, in regards to opening up businesses in the North:
Good day, Premier Ford and MPP Ross Romano and other related individuals and groups.
It’s Time for business in the north to get a green light and open in 10 days or less!
I speak from a large full-service Inn, the Water Tower Inn, in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. This area is commonly known as Northern Ontario, however, the reference is far from reality when you look at a map of the province. I say this because from just north of Toronto, around Barrie, the perception of Southern Ontario ends and the north begins….with 95 per cent or so of the landmass and with less than a million occupants in the North.
However, the government of Ontario never seems to understand the difference in lifestyle, in population density, and now in our successful containment of Covid-19 during the last 10 weeks in the North.
Our health authorities and front-line workers have led the way. We buckled down for 2 ½ months of isolation and we were successful. Now, government should open the door to small business opening up.
This Inn is currently selling rooms and take out food. However, we need to fully open our restaurant and pool facility so guests travelling across Canada or those seeking local stay–cations can be served. Additional room sales are critical to our survival. We can count!
Grocery stores were forced to count but people still bump up in narrow aisles. Multi-product big boxes are open, counting, but then after standing in long lines their customers excitedly cluster around the advertised special displays. Large industries never closed. Crowded kitchens in fast food places never closed. Still, no COVID cases.
We can count and distance and control!
In our full-service Inn, we have been acting this way since the doors opened in 1974. We count and control occupants for disruptive behaviour in 176 rooms. We are licensed for occupancy limitations by the AGCO in our restaurants. Our pools have a stated capacity that we monitor under health regulations.
Now, we are hurting, losing $7000 per week, after the government pays 75 per cent of our salaries and wages. We have a lot of bills to pay in this 140,000 square foot operation. Big business, medium business, small business…it is all relative. Our guest flows can no longer be shut off without shutting us down because we are restaurants, we are stores with inventories, we are places away from home and places to rest. We can count and we can distance!
In the North, it’s time to let people manage their lives again. You gave us the tools, now it’s time to back off. Focus on the congested south. Allow the North to occupy their hundreds of acres per person while cities continue to combat the congestion.
The Water Tower Inn has a current COVID policy, acclaimed frequently by our current room guests as excellent. We have large restaurants, kitchens, pool area we wish to operate at 50 per cent occupancy or less. We have conscientiously supported 14 salaried staff and several hourly employees during the last 10 weeks. Now we want to engage additional staff who need pay.
We want to open in 10 days along with all other medium and small businesses who serve the public using all our facilities and to practice hospitality again, if summer travel develops, at the same time maintaining government rules regarding the maximum number of people who can congregate in groups.
Thank you for the green light and may we be informed with 5 days’ notice we are good to go!
The Water Tower Inn
Sault Ste. Marie, ON