Ontario reopening: What’s open and the rules for step 1

Ontario is entering step 1 of the reopening plan on June 11, and Toronto is gearing up for a busy weekend of patio dining, retail therapy and outdoor fitness.

The province has scrapped the region-specific colour-coded reopening plan from last year and will reopen the economy in three steps – three weeks apart – based on specific vaccination targets and public health indicators.

Many public health restrictions will remain in place, such as social distancing and masking, and businesses that are reopening will have capacity limits. The focus in step 1 is on increasing outdoor gatherings and allowing limited indoor activities.

Doug Ford’s government previously planned to begin the reopening the week of June 14, but bumped up the date after the first-dose vaccination target surpassed the goal of 60 per cent of adults.

Here’s what you need to know about what’s open and the rules for step 1 of the Ontario reopening plan:

Gathering limits are changing

  • Outdoor social gatherings and organized public events are increasing from five to up to 10 people;
  • Outdoor religious services, rites or ceremonies, including wedding services and funeral services, capped at the number of people that can maintain a physical distance of two metres;
  • Indoor religious services, rites or ceremonies, including wedding services and funeral services permitted at up to 15 per cent capacity of the particular room;
  • Outdoor end-of-school-year celebration ceremonies held by a school or private school are exempt from outdoor gathering limits

There are still rules for outdoor social gatherings: people who don’t live together have to stay two metres apart (except your caregiver) or one person who lives alone can hang out closer with one other household. People who don’t live together have to wear a mask or face covering if within two metres of someone they don’t live with.

Indoor public and social gatherings are still banned, unless you are with people you live with or caregivers. People who live alone an gather “exclusively” with one other household.

The rules are easing on essential and non-essential retail – but not malls

Prior to step one, the province banned essential retailers – such as big-box stores and dollar stores – from selling non-essential items after small businesses complained the rules were unfair. Essential retailers were allowed to have indoor shoppers, but non-essential retailers were limited to curbside pick-up and delivery.

Under step 1, essential retailers are still restricted to 25 per cent capacity but can start selling all goods again. Non-essential retailers can reopen to indoor shopping at 15 per cent capacity.

Retail stores inside malls remain closed unless the shop has a street-facing entrance.

You can dine on a patio at a restaurant or bar

The return to patio dining is expected to make the first weekend of reopening a busy one. Restaurants and bars can resume outdoor service with tables restricted to four customers – unless it’s a larger group of people who live in the same household.

In Toronto, most patios facing main streets can serve alcohol until 2 am and must close by 2:45 am. Patios facing local side streets must close by 11 pm, with last call at 10:15 pm.

Outdoor fitness is allowed again

Outdoor fitness classes, outdoor sports training and outdoor personal training can resume with a maximum of 10 people and everyone must stay three metres apart.

However, sports games and practices are still banned. Indoor sports facilities are still closed unless you are a high-performance athlete or participating in a day camp.

Day camps are back, but no overnight camping

Day camps are allowed again, but overnight camping is not. Toronto has already opened registration for summer day camps, which will run from July 5 to August 27.

Ontario’s provincial parks are reopening for day use. Recreational and other facilities – except washrooms – are closed. Only people who need housing or who have full seasonal contracts can stay overnight.

The zoo, botanical gardens and horse racing are back

Outdoor attractions are allowed again in step 1. Horse racing, motorways and speedways are reopening but spectators aren’t allowed.

The good news: Outdoor zoos, landmarks, historic sites and botanical garden can resume at 15 per cent capacity for ticketed areas. The Toronto Zoo will reopen to the public on June 19.

A photo of cars parked at CityView Drive-In in Toronto in summer 202
Samuel Engelking

Drive-in venues are reopening

Drive-in movie theatres and performance venues are allowed to reopen, though venues hosting live gigs have postponed some dates. GTA drive-in cinemas are resuming on June 11, so you can start watching first-run movies on the big screen if you have a car. If you have tickets for a live performance at a drive-in for the weekend of June 11, double check with the venue to confirm whether it’s a go or has been postponed.

Art galleries are reopening – but not museums

Private art galleries are starting to reopen to visitors – including walk-ins. However, not all galleries may be open and some may still require (or prefer) you to book an appointment in advance. You should check with the gallery before showing up. Big museums such as the ROM and the AGO remain closed until step 3.

Live performance venues are closed, but livestreams can resume

Indoor live performances in concert and theatre venues are still banned, but artists can once again use venues to rehearse or film livestream performances. (Though some venues have been getting around the rules but operating as a film set.)

Public pools are reopening – but you need a reservation

Splash pads reopened already, but public pools are coming back to life in step 1. In Toronto, city-run pools will reopen on June 12 but you have to book a 45-minute slot via an online reservation system in advance. Make your pool reservation via toronto.ca/swim. Whirlpools, wading pools and water slides can also reopen.

You can take a driving test again

In-car driving lessons are still not allowed, but you can start taking a road test in Ontario on June 14 when DriveTest centres reopen across the province. Ontario has hired 167 additional driver examiners and extended hours to work through the backlog of people anxious to hit the road after lockdown. Book a test here.

The rules for short-term rentals

Previously only allowed for people in need of housing, short-term rentals can reopen but indoor pools, communal steam rooms, saunas, indoor whirlpools, indoor fitness centres and all other recreational facilities must remain shut.

Provincial borders are still closed… for now

Inter-provincial travel with Manitoba and Quebec remains closed until June 16, but there are exemptions.

…and sensory deprivation pods are sort of allowed again

While personal-service businesses like hair salons will have to wait until step two to reopen, sensory deprivation pods are coming back. However, if you need to chill out in an isolation tank, you’ll need to have it prescribed or administered by “a regulated health professional.”

What else is still closed?

  • Casinos, bingo halls, gaming establishments
  • Meetings and event spaces (except for specific professions)
  • Public libraries, except for curbside pick-up and access to computers and photocopiers as well as washrooms
  • Fairs and rural exhibitions
  • Driving schools
  • Strip clubs, except to operate as a restaurant


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