Days after Janice Jackson, mayor of the Town of South Bruce Peninsula, announced council had decided to close all of the beaches in the town, business owners are struggling to understand why the decision was made right before they were expecting visitors for the Canada Day long weekend.
Jaspal and Jessica Grewal, co-owners of Sauble Beach Lodge, said they received a flood of emails and calls from clients seeking to cancel their bookings following the announcement.
“First they get us to reopen and we were ready for the long weekend, and then I got at least 80 cancellations,” Jaspal says.”It’s just going to kill us.” He and other small business owners like Tom LaForme, owner of Beachside Cottages, have already lost a couple of weeks of business due to COVID restrictions.
Like many rentals, they have been actively working to prepare their properties for guests while abiding by health rules. “We’ve been working for a month to get it ready and going. Then we had everything ready, food—our bookings came in, we spent so much money on safety equipment…,” Grewal says, exasperated.
Business owners are planning to gather on Friday to discuss next steps.
In a Facebook post, Jackson, cited overwhelmed bylaw officers over the weekend who were unable to enforce social distancing rules on the beaches as one of the reasons for the closures.
“We hoped everything would go well and we could open the beach completely in time for the long weekend,” Jackson says. “Many people witnessed the recklessness of beachgoers over the last two weekends.”
Grey Bruce Health Unit’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Ian Arra had previously closed the beaches in Grey and Bruce counties in mid-May citing the risk of COVID-19 transmission and community spread.
“The intent of the May 14 order was to send a message provincially that Grey and Bruce Counties are not open for tourism yet,” Arra explained in a press release. “This would deter one-day visitors and prevent mass gatherings on beaches.”
However, he lifted that order on May 28, noting it is up to each municipality to maintain its beach closure based on local needs.
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“We hope this closure will be temporary. As you know, we set out a few weeks ago to open the beach in phases, like everything else in the Province,” Jackson says in her post. “We wanted to see if people could conduct themselves on the beach by adhering to COVID restrictions and guidelines.”
Cottage Life contacted the Town of South Bruce Peninsula requesting the number of complaints it received over the beachgoers, however, it did not respond by the time of publication.
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