Province opens door to larger conventions and meetings as COVID restrictions ease

Convention centre
The Shaw Centre will now be allowed to host up to 50 people in each of its meeting rooms under new provincial rules. Photo from Colin Temple/iStock

Local convention sector leaders are hoping a move to allow more visitors into meeting facilities will provide a shot in the arm during what’s been a tough year for their beleaguered industry.  

Provincial minister Lisa MacLeod, the MPP for Nepean, joined Ottawa tourism officials Saturday at the Shaw Centre to announce that convention centres, hotels, banquet halls and other meeting spaces can now welcome more guests as the province continues to ease restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Professional meeting and event facilities are allowed to host gatherings of up to 50 people in individual rooms or event spaces within a building, not including employees of the facility, MacLeod told the gathering that included Ottawa Tourism boss Michael Crockatt. Facilities will have to follow plans approved by the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health.

Convention centres and other meeting spaces started opening their doors to the public again last month after being closed since March as part of the COVID-19 lockdown. Under the Ontario government’s staged approach to reopening the economy, previously a maximum of 50 people were allowed to occupy an entire building, excluding staff.    

“Allowing for multiple meetings or events will allow convention centres, hotels and other professional meeting facilities to welcome back more visitors and employees,” said MacLeod, who is also the minister responsible for tourism and culture.

Outdoor meeting and event facilities remain subject to the 100-person limit ​– not counting employees ​– previously stipulated by the province. 

Shaw Centre president and CEO Nina Kressler said the announcement was a much-needed bit of good news for her industry. 

“We are happy that the province is demonstrating its understanding of the importance of the meetings and events sector to the economy by allowing us to reopen in a manner that will allow us to host more meetings and events while ensuring everyone remains safe,” she said in a statement.

The province also said it’s tweaking its rules regarding contact tracing information required from patrons at bars and restaurants. 

Only one person in a party is now required to provide contact information to restaurant and bar staff in the event they need to be contacted following positive cases of COVID-19 in an establishment. Previous rules called for every customer entering a bar or restaurant to give their name and phone number or email address.

“This will reduce the administrative burden on businesses such as restaurants, bars and other food and drink establishments, and tour and guide services, while continuing to support case and contact tracing,” the province said.