Six Nations moves to alert level green; bingo hall reopens

As Covid vaccination numbers rise and the community enters the loosest restrictions since the pandemic began, regular operations at the Six Nations Bingo Hall will resume at 50 per cent capacity.

Six Nations of the Grand River Elected Council approved the resumption of regular operations at the bingo hall this week, with a number of Covid safety precautions in place. The exact date of reopening will be announced on the bingo hall’s social media accounts.

Matt Jamieson, president of the Six Nations of the Grand River Economic Development Corporation, which runs the bingo hall, reasoned that it should be allowed to re-open given the province has recently permitted bingo halls and other gaming facilities, including casinos, to operate at 50 per cent capacity in the Ontario re-opening plan.

“We have contact tracing, we have a secured entrance, we have screening and guest tracking for tracing purposes,” Jamieson told elected council’s finance committee Monday morning.

“We’ve calculated we can comfortably host 250 patrons playing traditional bingo, along with 50 patrons playing our electronic, 24-ball bingo. We’d like to re-open, effective immediately, to host a maximum of 300 patrons all being socially distanced, and of course, subject to our Covid protocols.”

Elected Council also agreed to move into “alert level green” under the community’s custom, colour-coded Covid alert system.

It is the least restrictive alert level out of the five levels in the system. Six Nations was under alert level black for much of the early part of 2021, the highest restriction level, as the community grappled with hundreds of Covid cases that tragically resulted in a number of deaths.

Jamieson said elected council’s green alert level only allows for a maximum of 50 people gathered indoors on Six Nations, which is why he sought special permission for higher capacity attendance at the bingo hall.

“I think the (Six Nations Covid alert) framework should be updated to reflect the market conditions out there and keep a competitive environment. The 50 people number…I think it’s arbitrary, given the fact that we’ve got over 30,000 sq. feet and we can host 1,700 people in the building. It doesn’t seem to make any sense to me. Whatever that process is, we’ll respect it, but we’re seeking clarity in how we can operate.”

Coun. Helen Miller spoke to the broader implications of green level restrictions compared to off-reserve.

“It’s wide open out there, except here. People keep asking me, ‘when can our stores have more than two people?’ Everybody’s going to the mall, everybody’s going all over and our stores can only have two people at a time. Green needs a good updating of some sort. It’s not mixing and matching with outside the reserve.”

The bingo hall could fit 800 people at 50 per cent capacity, said Jamieson.

“We mapped the floor based on current social distancing requirements. Based on that metric, we were able to calculate we could fit comfortably 300 people. It will get us back to an operating environment that’s profitable.”

Jamieson said the bingo hall needs to hire more staff and they’ll make a social media announcement on when the bingo hall re-opens for regular operations.

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