B.C. imposing tougher rules on bars, nightclubs as COVID-19 caseload grows
VANCOUVER -- Health officials are imposing stricter rules on B.C. bars and nightclubs as the province's COVID-19 caseload continues to surge.
On Wednesday, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced patrons in those kinds of "high-risk environments" now need to stay in assigned seating areas, and can't stand at the bar to order drinks.
"There's no liquor self-service or dance floors, and measures need to be in place to reduce lineups and gatherings and pressure points," she said.
While establishments will be responsible for enforcing those rules, Henry said it's vitally important that customers respect them as well.
The same goes for the regulations in restaurants, especially the six-person limit for group dining.
"Don't ask your server to let you bring in more than six people, and don't hop tables," Henry said. "No trying to work around it by sitting separately and moving between tables and gatherings – that just puts others at risk."
The general manager of Fountainhead Pub said she loves the regulations.
"It's going to be a good thing to lay out any rules that they can and allow us to point to them and say, 'This is what they said, this is what we had to do now,'" Tara Fenimore told CTV News.
After B.C.'s top doctor addressed the province, Fenimore added a sign at the entrance of the bar saying "WWDHD," which stands for "What Would Dr. Henry Do?"
It's a saying she wants all her customers and staff to follow.
But that's not always easy as nights stretch on and the alcohol flows.
"I've definitely hurt some feelings, maybe even ruined a couple nights," she said. "But it's about the staff and the other customers. So if I've got to hurt a few feelings to keep everyone else safe, then that's just how it's got to be."
Officials thanked representatives from the bar and nightclub industry for working with the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, WorkSafeBC and Henry's office to figure out ways to increase safety while remaining open.
The B.C. Alliance of Beverage Licensees told CTV News it's happy to have more clarity around the rules, and that most establishments have been doing their part to keep patrons safe.
"I think most places meet or exceed the regulations," said Jeff Guignard, spokesperson for the alliance.
But the BC Restaurants and Food Service Association is pushing these regulations further, "strongly recommending" all staff wear masks.
"The message is, 'Let's make sure we do this better,'" said Ian Tostenson, the association's president and CEO. "Doing better means we want to minimize any other contact in a restaurant that is with anybody else except the people you're with."
But unlike at establishments in some other provinces, where customers must wear masks whenever they're walking through the restaurant, Tostenson said they aren't going that far.
"I think masks would be an unnecessary step for patrons, but again I think they're necessary for other reasons for staff."
He also added that contract tracing is going to ramp up, recognizing most places are doing it but it could be more uniformly.
"The problem is communicating with 15,000 restaurants," he told CTV News.
"Many of them don't speak English and so there's some inconsistencies that are occurring."
He also added that while some have complained staff members aren't wearing gloves at certain establishments, the association is recommending they don't.
"We actually don't want them to wear gloves because gloves make you lazy. You're better off to have a rigorous hand washing."
For now, nightclubs are only allowed to open as lounges or to host events, and even then can only allow a maximum of 50 people. Events must also end by 11 p.m.
In order to host live musical acts, the performers need to be three metres away from patrons and behind a barrier.
For now, Fenimore requests patience as the industry as a whole continues to adjust.
"Customers coming into any restaurant, just understand that there's so much more to do and that the onus is on us to keep it clean and the onus is on the customers to just keep it kind. If we're not there right away, we're probably cleaning something and it's only for your benefit."
With files from CTV News Vancouver's Bhidner Sajan