On the north side of the Niagara River, the sun is out, the beer is cold and customers will start their weekend on the patios of bars and restaurants. Long-awaited, Ontario lifts months of COVID lockdown restrictions three days earlier than planned.
It doesn't directly affect the issue of ordinary people crossing the border, but it probably increases the pressure on the U.S. and Canadian governments to work things out, as the June 21 expiration of the current Canadian border closing edict approaches and could be extended.
On the Ontario side, Fort Erie Mayor Wayne Redekop said the lifting of restrictions gives businesses a break, even with social distancing and family group rules still in place.
"There are many, many restaurant owners, bar owners, related hospitality business owners who are looking at the opportunity to open up a little bit this Friday and then being able to further open up as we go forward," Redekop said. "It will increase the size of a group that can gather, but there's still social distancing that's required. It's still being limited to family units."
The mayor said warm weather will also bring out the beachgoers, lots and lots of beachgoers.
"It would seem like a lot of people are at the beach, but we have put a limit on the number of people that can go to Bay Beach at any one time," Redekop said. "The capacity limit is 2,000 people and that permits us to ensure that there is the social distancing between the groups that are on the beach. That's a beach that ordinarily could accomodate maybe 5,000, 6,000 people."
The booming real estate market is also heating up around Fort Erie. Redekop said Canadians have been in a mass exodus from Toronto, with its high prices and COVID problems. But few Americans are selling their cross-border property, at Crystal Beach or elsewhere, even if most haven't been able to visit their property since at least March of last year.