Earlier this afternoon, B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced that restaurants and bars will no longer be able to offer indoor dining services as of midnight tonight. Despite this being one of multiple new restrictions in response to a surge in COVID-19 cases, this suspension comes with next-to-no notice to restaurant operators across the province.
Now, most are left scrambling to figure out what to do with extensive food prep and perishable ingredients, especially as we approach Easter weekend. With the new restriction in effect until at least April 19, restaurants must revert to takeout, delivery and meal kits. Restaurants will still be able to offer service on patios, but that is certainly not a practical solution for all restaurateurs.
“We will close in the meantime, but we can’t run a restaurant like this, says Shaun Layton, co-owner of Como Taperia. "We only have three patio tables, and it doesn’t make sense for us to open up a restaurant for that. We are reviewing all our options right now with regards to the mercado and kits/boxes.”
Chris Lam, chef and owner of Straight and Marrow, shares Layton's frustrations and then some. Being an eatery that's less than one year old, his business doesn't qualify for current government support programs.
"The short notice takes away any sort of planning that could have been made to minimize loss during this transition," says Lam.
"Less than 24 hours notice will crush a lot of supply and planning for a lot of restaurants. I know it is not an easy decision, however as a place that doesn’t [qualify for] subsidies or have a patio, they need to figure out a way to help small businesses like mine that opened last year to survive this.”
Aburi Restaurants Canada owns concepts in both Vancouver and Toronto and are no strangers to having to operate businesses under lockdown as such has been the case in Ontario for months, but the company's marketing director Dean Harrison says today's suspension of in-person dining in B.C. came as a shock.
“Although we own and operate four properties in Toronto...the recent B.C. announcement regarding indoor dining closure was still surprising to us. We understand the required actions the government is taking. With that said, the short notice between the provincial announcement and mandated closure will impact our business extensively–from food wastage, to employment opportunities for our team, to shifting once again to a primarily take-out model for our initiatives and offerings," says Harrison.
Looking beyond Vancouver, the closure of the Whistler-Blackcomb ski resort–also until April 19–is another example of a new measure that will notably affect B.C. foodservice business owners (specifically in the Whistler area).