Letter: Patios Don’t Open Restaurants – Sault Business Owner Advocates for Opening of Restaurants


Covid-19 has decimated restaurant revenues for 3 months. The Province of Ontario is allowing patios to open as of midnight Friday – but is this truly safer and realistic?

The following letter was sent to the Hon. Doug Ford and MPP Ross Romano this morning on behalf of Water Tower Inn Proprietor, JJ Hilsinger. It is a follow-up to JJ’s June 5th letter and the announcement that Algoma is moving to stage 2 of Ontario’s Re-opening Plan.


Good day Premier Ford, MPP Ross Romano and other related individuals and groups.

Re: Opening of patios in stage 2 areas.

Thanks for taking the first steps at opening up, however in the hospitality industry, restaurants are not run by patios. They are, in fact, operated through huge investments in kitchens and furnishings and leases.

Patios may be a good buzz feeling like “a buck a beer”, however they won’t support viability and sustainability of a restaurant business, even if they sell copious amounts of liquid without the ‘heart of the house’… the kitchens for cooking and the permanent seating filled with patrons all year long.

You may also know that patios in “Northern Ontario” are generally risky business in that they experience a lot of cooler weather, even during summer, insects and wind from the lakes. And although it sounds easy to set up tables over an expanded patio in a parking lot, professional restaurant owners will be reluctant to haul out their furniture to be potentially damaged in adverse weather conditions.

You may be surprised, but consider this. By simply opening our patio, we risk non-compliance to the degree we may not be able to control our operations.

For instance, it may seem simple but;

  • Patio guests will enter to the main restaurant to use washrooms and pay bills.
  • Guests staying at the Inn getting their take away foods will mix with the patio guests.
  • Guest using curbside pick up will divert attention of our staff who must deliver food orders and it will be more difficult operating the business at limited staff levels compared to using our CoVid plan including inside guest seating.

You might also imagine the chaos when weather rolls in and a downpour occurs and everyone heads for cover inside. Tell me now, are you operating a patio or a restaurant?

Have you really solved your CoVid challenges?

Therefore, I continue to appeal for restaurants and other small businesses to be able to operate by identifying their CoVid plans and by committing to managing occupancy limits as dictated by distancing regulations, not by occupying sidewalks and parking lots.

For instance, at The Water Tower Inn, we have re-set our restaurant to 50% or less of capacity distanced seating by removing tables and we intend to advise non associated guest groups to refrain from mingling.

Once again we appreciate your attention to the many challenges at a time, however we are sinking below the water line unless we can just open our restaurant in a week.

May we be informed with 5 days notice that we are good to go!

J J Hilsinger, Proprietor,
The Water Tower Inn,
Sault Ste. Marie, ON


June 5th Letter: It’s Time for Business in the North!



  1. I agree 100%. Just the anxiety a lot of us went through this week. It’s posted on this site that the city has allowed tents smaller than 60 sqM. At 4:30 Thursday APH over rules and said a 10 by 10 tent only. There’s no way web can operate with dinky tents. This is Northern Ontario. 4 bar owners including us, were calling and cancelling and re ordering then cancelling tents for our patio setup all day
    If your gonna open patio’s. Then open patios. Please don’t make us call back employees just to struggle more
    I totally understand that our local leaders were caught off guard with Doug Fords announcement and are overwhelmed as us and are doing a great job with this pandemic. Maybe ask for our opinions and ideas. .

  2. If opening up the patio is a hassle then don’t open up the patio and stay closed. I get that restaurants are hurting. I want nothing more than to go back to my favourite eating establishments and spend my money locally to help them. But it is not hype. The threat is real. Because we’ve been so good at keeping our distances, that’s the reason we have such a low number of cases here. Don’t assume we’re out of the woods because we aren’t. Things will get better. I will definitely take heading out to a patio if that’s all I get for now. At least it’s something and it’s going to help keeping us heading in the right direction.

  3. Yes enough already.Never even had a peak enough to flatten a curve.No cases.You are killing our city and small businesses.A community pool can open but restaurants cant sit people 6 feet apart.Alot of our restaurants dont even have patios.Gyms can also distance.Makes no sense at all.The north is very different then the south but government people never see that nor do they acknowledge us.Open everything up and stop scaring the hell out of everyone.We are not stupid people up here.We know how to keep safe.

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