COVID-19 capacity increases at B.C. venues, but some small businesses still at disadvantage
Fresh off a victory that spoiled the Seattle Kraken’s first ever home game at a sold out arena in Seattle, the Vancouver Canucks will welcome fans back into their own building of Rogers Arena on Tuesday.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has lifted COVID-19 capacity restrictions just in time for the game, and with only a handful of tickets still available, it could also be a sellout.
“This is obviously pre-ordained,” said Mo Tarmohamed, owner of the Rickshaw Theatre on East Hastings Street.
He doesn’t think it’s a coincidence that capacity limits have been lifted just in time for hockey season.
“It kind of shows that live music and the arts sort of play second fiddle to big corporations and the mega-bucks of hockey," he said.
But he’s still grateful his own small business, restricted to 50 per cent until now, will be able to increase capacity as well, but it won’t be to 100 per cent like the Canucks.
“It’s full capacity based on how many seats you can have. So, in our case, we are a 500-person capacity room but I can’t have 500 people in here,” Tarmohamed said. “Because when you put seats on the floor, it takes up real estate, so I can only effectively do 400.”
Pre-pandemic, the Rickshaw would host about 175 events per year – everything from punk concerts to wrestling shows.
Tarmohamed estimates the 100 people he will have to turn away will cost him about $2,000 to $4,000 per event.
“One thing that is undeniable is that the hospitality industry has borne the brunt of public health protocols throughout this pandemic. And that’s been true for the past two years,” said Jeff Guignard, of the BC Alliance of Beverage Licensees, who says he understands the financial stresses many small hospitality businesses are under.
But he is urging patience, saying he advocates on their behalf during weekly meetings with provincial health officials – and he expects more re-opening steps to be taken soon.
It’s not clear exactly when, but that could include loosening the requirement for every patron to have an assigned seat, and even allowing dancing again.
Of course, that is all dependant on active case numbers, hospitalizations and vaccination rates in each region of the province.
“I think the important thing to remember is this is not the last step. This is just a step on the way where we get to,” Guignard said. “What some businesses want to get back to -- concerts, theatres and nightclubs -- we will get there but it’s just going to take a little bit longer before we can.”