Big lines at pot shops, hardware stores ahead of midnight closure

There were long lineups at cannabis retailers and hardware stores throughout Ottawa Saturday, as customers rushed to make purchases ahead of temporary closure order that take effect at midnight across the province.

On Friday, Premier Doug Ford announced more businesses would be shuttered after public health officials outlined their pandemic projections.

Unless more stringent action was taken, Public Health Ontario said that 1,600 people could die from COVID-19 — and 80,000 could be infected by the end of the month. 

As a result, the provincial government has pared down its list of essential services from 74 categories to 44.

Grocery stores, pharmacies, utilities, public transit, taxis and animal care services can all remain open. Cannabis shops, which had been deemed essential two weeks earlier, have now been ordered to close — although recreational users can still order online through the government-owned Ontario Cannabis Store.  

On a bright sunny Saturday, the noon lineup outside Stash and Co. in Centretown stretched around the block.

Staff wearing face masks and gloves limited the number of people who could enter the store. Customers left about two metres between each other and surfed on their phones as they waited more than an hour to get inside.

A similar scene played out on Wellington Street West in front of the Superette cannabis store.

Chris Rands/CBC

Meanwhile, hardware stores can now sell their goods online and offer curbside pick-up or delivery — but must shut their retail stores. 

Around 10 a.m., the parking lot at the Home Depot on Bank Street was already half full. David Attwater, 63, was among those scrambling to get last minute supplies to renovate a house.

"A long-term tenant moved out on Tuesday and I started a full renovation to prepare to sell it. I heard on the news they were closing the big box stores, so I came here first thing in the morning to get all the stuff my contractor said he would need," said Attwater.

Attwater said he's "prone to getting colds and the flu," so he wore a mask and gloves on the way into the store.

He said he wasn't comfortable buying some of his supplies online, without seeing them first in person. 

"I was buying tile, I was buying grout. For some of those things you need to be able to be there — to see it, to feel it and get a sense of it."

Another customer, Ken White, was stocking up on garden supplies.

He said staff were diligent about limiting the numbers of customers inside the store, and understood they needed to close so that people would stay home.

"I'm surprised they stayed open this way this long, to be quite honest," White said. "I thought what [the province is] doing tomorrow, they would have done sooner."