Wilmot businesses work hard to ensure customers’ safety

Most infractions turn out to be misunderstandings about regulations, says Wilmot’s Manager of Municipal Law Enforcement.

  • Business   Sun, Feb 14th, 2021   Nigel Gordijk
Owner and veterinarian Glen Blier beside a numbered parking spot in front of his business. Each one has a cell number to contact staff inside the building. (Photo credit: Nigel Gordijk)

Owner and veterinarian Glen Blier beside a numbered parking spot in front of his business. Each one has a cell number to contact staff inside the building. (Photo credit: Nigel Gordijk)

Before a customer walks through the front door of The New Dundee Emporium, they have to read a comprehensive checklist of COVID-19 symptoms: Fever or chills? Cough, difficulty breathing or shortness of breath? Sore throat or trouble swallowing? Runny or stuffy nose, decrease or loss of taste or smell?

What about the people you’ve had contact with? Have they been infected? Travel history – have you been outside of Canada?

If all their answers are “no”, the customer may enter.

“Once they come in, there’s hand sanitizer right inside the door,” said New Dundee Emporium co-owner Mark Harrison. “From there, I greet them and ask if they’ve sanitized their hands, and explain how we do things here. They’re expected to wear a mask at all times, and wear it properly, as I’m the one that enforces this.”

Harrison and his husband Danny Duchesne have owned the iconic business for 18 years. They strictly follow safety protocols, including limiting the number of customers to eight in the store at one time. Harrison clearly describes to each of them the steps he’s taking to keep them safe.

“I explain that the basket has been sanitized, and they can fill it up and bring it to the cash area. I submerge credit cards, debit cards and cash in a mild bleach solution.”

The restaurant side of The New Dundee Emporium is run by Chef Duchesne, while Harrison manages the store. The restaurant is closed during the current lockdown, but customers can still come in to buy frozen food or “high tea to go”, all of which is prepared on site.

For the most part, customers seem to appreciate why the health and safety protocols are so stringent, so Harrison said there haven’t been many complaints.

“I’ve had a few who feel that it’s fake news and not as serious as the media says. I had one customer who was not wearing her mask over her nose just laugh at me and walk out.”

The New Dundee Emporium has had one visit from Waterloo Region Public Health.

“Of course we did well, because of what we’re doing here for COVID safety,” Harrison boasted. “I think the reason we’ve only been inspected once is because we don’t have any complaints from customers.”

Glen Blier, veterinarian and owner of New Hamburg Veterinary Clinic (NHVC), has both two and four-legged visitors to contend with, adding an extra level of compliance complexity. He and his staff are providing curbside pickup for items like pet food, but when it comes to treating pets inside the building, owners have to remain outside.

Parking spots out front have numbered signs that include a cell number to contact staff inside the building.

“All staff wear masks at all times, and we request clients do, as well. We use contactless payment, cleaning the POS (point-of-sale) between clients, and have a web-store that will process payment and delivery to the client without traffic to the office,” said Blier.

Food animals are an integral part of NHVC’s practice, with several local farms amongst their clients. Blier said that helping to provide food safely to the public through maintaining the health of farm animals is important.

He added that clients are grateful the clinic is still open.

“The only negative feedback has been reservations about not being present with their pet during its visit. We’ve made every effort to minimize pets’ and owners’ anxiety during their visit.”

NHVC has not had any public health inspections, although it has been following advice from the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association to ensure it complies with government regulations.

“This has made implementation easier, as some of the guidelines from the government are open to interpretation,” Blier said.

Erin Merritt, Wilmot’s Manager of Municipal Law Enforcement, said that COVID protocol enforcement responsibilities are split between the Region, Waterloo Region Police Service, the province’s Ministry of Labour, and the Township. Complaints from the public are often triaged through the Region.

“However, we’ve conducted inspections due to complaints being received, follow-up visits, and provided information to business owners, as the legislation has been ever-changing,” said Merritt.  

The number of local complaints rises every time the province’s regulations change. Most infractions turn out to be a misunderstanding about the requirements.

“We try to work with business owners as much as possible, to understand and work within the provincial laws,” she stressed. “I’ve not issued any fines, just provided information, and then ensured the regulations were being followed, which all businesses I have dealt with comply with very quickly.”

“I cannot imagine the stress business owners are under right now, so I just hope I don’t add to that stress, especially when so many people are doing their best to adhere to all the ever-changing rules and regulations.”

Ontario's Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act applicable fines.

Ontario's Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act applicable fines.