A holiday light show is speaking out after new lockdown restrictions forced it to close.

Toronto's Journey Into Enchantment was initially supposed to run until January 7, 2021, but was shut down on December 26, 2020, along with other drive-thru events, when the province entered a stricter lockdown.

The 1.6-km route was designed as a contactless way for guests to see lights from the safety of their vehicles.

Natasha Alam, director of operations for the venue, says that the closure of drive-thru events "doesn't make sense".

She spoke with Narcity about her experience, and what she's hoping for moving forward.

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What steps did you take to operate the light show safely during the pandemic?   

Initially, Journey Into Enchantment was going to operate as a walkthrough experience, but due to COVID-19, it was turned into a drive-thru event.

"It was the government itself that had urged everyone to create something safe and healthy, a moment of joy for families during these hard COVID times," Alam said.

She estimates it took over $100,000 to turn the attraction into a drive-thru experience.

With tickets purchased online, timed entry, and staff spaced meters apart, the event was a contactless way to get in the holiday spirit.

"We were drive-thru, COVID safe, [and] we scan[ned] tickets through closed windows. It just doesn't make sense how we're being told to be shut down."

How has the closure affected you?

Alam said she was "shocked" when she heard the event was going to be closed, especially since drive-thrus were permitted during the previous lockdown.

Initially, she was told that the restrictions would not apply to her venue, but days later it was announced that drive-thrus would, in fact, need to close.

"It was just a really crucial time for us as a small business owner, and we had to refund thousands of tickets," she said.

"We don't know what the future holds for us."

The drive-thru was also operating as a charity event, and Alam said that they were "lucky" to reach their donation goal, despite the closure.

What are you hoping for moving forward?

While Alam understands the government's efforts for health and safety, she would like more clarity as to why her event was closed.

"We probably received one response out of the hundreds of emails and letters sent out, and it just seemed like a standard form response not really addressing our concerns."

"Why is it that McDonald's and Tim Horton's drive-thrus are open and we're closed?" she asked.

"It feels like a lack of empathy coming from the premier's office for small business owners, compared to large businesses that are open."

"This was to bring back joy during this time," she said.

"It was for mental health because there's been a lot of strains and stressors from this pandemic."

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