The following was issued by J.J. Hilsinger Letter:
June 29th, 2020
To Mr. Doug Ford, Premier of Ontario,
CC to Ross Romano, MLA SSM; Terry Sheehan MP SSM. and those who enjoy the Water Tower Inn as a leader in hospitality for locals and travelers.
[Mr. Ford, when I began writing my first letter on June 5th, I had no idea I would have to continue writing letters, this being the 3rd. The north has successfully overcome CoVid for over a month and should, by now, benefit from government promises to expedite openings based on performance. We have now been closed 16 weeks, 4 months, long after reasonable cautions have been proven. Ontario is very large, not at all the same as Windsor and the horse shoe.
Good day to all,
I am the proprietor of a full-service, BW Premier Collection urban Inn with 176 rooms and suites.
It includes a restaurant with 16,000 square feet of multi-level, vaulted ceiling space including 5 washrooms. We are licensed for 400 people. We converted the restaurant to a CoVid standard to accommodate 200 people. This allows 80 square feet per person, which is above and beyond CoVid guidelines. We plan to vet arrivals and assign spaced-seating to serve them. However, except for take-away food, we are Closed!
Mr. Ford, these features are well beyond current patio realities which are experienced as a free-for-all, including the inevitable restaurant access. Does this mean that all patio-accessed restaurants are in fact open?
The Inn has a recreation center with 7,700 square feet of pools and sauna with a capacity of 60 with two change rooms and an entry lobby. It includes a courtyard with an outdoor whirlpool. The facility will have controlled and supervised access for 20 guests which would mean 150 square feet of space per person, including 2 change rooms. We are Closed!
Mr. Ford, your Phase 2 framework document, states “public access to indoor and outdoor aquatic facilities including hotels is permitted” however it was not translated through health regulations.
Our restaurant is not a cafe. Our recreation facility does not have residential tubs. Our spacing and corridors are wider than most grocery and big box stores. We have management skills related to food safety, conflict monitoring, alcohol control, occupancy management.
At the Inn, our occupied room nights are gradually increasing. Guests want restaurant and pool services and are seeking Stay-Cations. But, we are prohibited from opening our facilities to room guests and locals who would willingly spend thousands of dollars per week, hopefully partially offsetting our $7000 losses per week.
Mr. Ford, there is no market for the hospitality business in 2020 except local, regional and national business, only ½ of previous demand. Hundreds of events, meetings and room nights have been cancelled. The main attraction, the Agawa Canyon Tour Train has been cancelled. Must we keep squandering the little opportunity that remains?
As a result, we are frustrated, exhausted, and helpless. The staff at the Inn have walked the line with government, health officials and the public to attack Covid for 4 months. We are now busted!
Mr. Ford, will it be a little more CoVid or a lot of mental and physical breakdown that kills my staff and the unfortunate public? You must be pondering these questions!
Until mid-March we employed 150 staff. Now, we soldier on, retaining 14 salaried staff and about 15 hourly staff. Notwithstanding, we would re-hire about 25 additional hourly staff if only governments would allow us to use our spacious, first class facilities.
Mr. Ford, we are forced to live through the humility of bleeding substantive losses. After CEWS much appreciated benefits are over, must we lay off more staff and shutter parts of the business?
Take-away food and parking lot patios are not the solution, even for the restaurants who dug out cheap furniture to install under tents in their parking lots, frantically seeking another source of income. Any business or government analysis that these are sustainable solutions should plan on longer term problems by autumn. The economy will pay. The owners will be gone.
Phase 2 opportunities have not materialized for this Inn even though the north has been totally eligible for Phase 3 guidelines for at least 4 weeks. What is stopping this? Our health authorities and our citizens co-operated to successfully limit CoVid occurrences. Why are many types of businesses entitled to fill their parking lots while we are left disadvantaged?
We are truly appreciative of the work of “essential” workers, health authorities, and the extremely difficult decisions that governments had and have to make. We support and would not undercut their wisdom for selfish reasons. However, we are pressed to the limits, seeking “common sense decisions” related to the province’s well-grounded experience that resulted in further phases of “easing-up and opening-up”.
Mr. Ford, I ask you, is it fair to submerge this business [and others with similar features] until it drowns under unfair, unthoughtful, unorthodox ways of demanding we take knees to plead for simple common sense?
Can we just open up now? And if not, why not? [May I receive a non- template answer this time.]
J J Hilsinger, proprietor, The Water Tower Inn.