Ontario shuts down Christmas lights drive-thrus early under new lockdown measures

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TORONTO — Drive-thru Christmas light festivals will be going dark in Ontario weeks earlier than organizers planned under Doug Ford’s stricter COVID-19 measures that go into effect on Saturday.

But several creators say they hope last-minute efforts to lobby the government before the holidays will convince leaders to make drive-thru shows an exception to the lockdown.

Monica Gomez, whose Polar Drive near Toronto’s Pearson International Airport was scheduled to run until January, says she was surprised when she learned she would have to shut down.

Her region had already been operating under stricter grey-zone lockdown measures that started on Nov. 23, but drive-thrus were still allowed up until the announcement earlier this week.

“It’s Christmas, this was put on us last minute, and now people aren’t in office,” she says of attempts to contact local officials.

“It wasn’t all about the revenue. This was about doing something for families. In our mind, we’re like, why would you take that one thing away from people right now?”

Gomez says it doesn’t make sense that her contactless event isn’t allowed to continue while drive-thru fast-food restaurants can still hand items through

Ontario is grappling with rising COVID-19 infection rates, including a new record high of 2,447 cases reported Thursday.

Residents are being told to stay home as much as possible and only go out for essential services, even before the province-wide lockdown begins on Dec. 26 and lasts at least a month.

The latest changes impacted other businesses that relied on in-car experiences.

Drive-in movie theatres were told several days before the opening of “Wonder Woman 1984” on Dec. 25 they could no longer operate, while the drive-in Immersive Van Gogh exhibit will be forced to close as well.

Some drive-in Christmas light events have already thrown in the towel, including Canadian Tire’s Christmas Trail, which closed up on Dec. 23 and cancelled all future reservations.

Andrew Gidaro, who co-produces Holiday Nights of Lights in Vaughan, Ont., says he’s not opposed to the lockdown, but feels the province “missed the mark a little” when it lumped contactless in-vehicle events into the latest measures.

He believes a “meaningful dialogue” with local government officials in Vaughan could lead to an agreement that these events are “something necessary” for the community.

“We’re hopeful that we can get this thing turned and continue to operate,” he added.

 

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