Ontario arts leader suggests pausing food, drink sales instead of capacity limits


Published December 16, 2021 at 1:46 pm

TORONTO — As Ontario prepares to introduce new COVID-19 capacity limits at large indoor venues, one Canadian arts leader hopes the province might entertain a different idea: temporarily stopping food and beverage sales at all live events.

Mervon Mehta, executive director of performing arts at Toronto’s Royal Conservatory, is asking provincial leaders to consider ways to keep capacity at current levels rather than introduce rules that would directly erode ticket sales.

He says one option could be to mandate that all venues — no matter their size — require audiences to remain seated and refrain from eating or drinking in a performance.

Mehta presented his alternative to capacity limits in a letter obtained by The Canadian Press and sent on Thursday to Lisa MacLeod, Ontario’s minister of tourism, culture and sport.

The approach would be starkly different from Premier Doug Ford’s plan to combat the fast-spreading Omicron variant by placing 50 per cent capacity limits on venues that hold 1,000 or more people.

The underlying suggestion in Mehta’s letter is that without food and drinks on the menu, spectators would be less likely to remove their masks.

Mehta says many seated venues, particularly live theatres and concert halls, already restrict food and drinks in their auditorium. While revenue would plummet at the concession stand, it would be “nowhere near the loss of revenue from a 50 per cent drop in ticket sales.”

His letter did not address stadiums and movie theatres which rely on concession sales for a large part of their business.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 16, 2021.

David Friend, The Canadian Press

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