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Dr. Henry responds to restaurant owners urging her to encourage dining out
VANCOUVER -- She’s been the voice of provincial health officials since the COVID-19 was first diagnosed in B.C. Now some Vancouver restaurant owners, who’ve had trouble attracting crowds since reopening their physically-distanced establishments, are asking Dr. Bonnie Henry to speak up for them.
"Maybe a little bit more enthusiasm and encouragement to get those people sitting on the fence," said Justin Ault, the owner of Hapa Izakaya.
The Yaletown restaurant opened on May 28, and while regulars have been coming, Ault isn’t filling all his tables, despite being at half capacity. "Just by the sheer lack volume of guests coming in, it’s obvious that people are being a little tentative," he said. "It would be nice if they have one more voice of reassurance, and Dr. Henry’s a voice that people are very reassured by."
Ault’s comments echo those of Glowbal Restaurant Group president Emad Yacoub, who told CTV News the messaging from the government has been so cautious, people are staying away from restaurants despite the physical distancing measures that have been put in place.
"Tell them to go to restaurants," said Yacoub. "You don’t need to hide in your house. You can go out and enjoy a dinner with your friends."
The president of the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association agrees a message to the public from Dr. Henry would help struggling restaurants.
"She does carry a lot of weight in terms of communication key messages, especially health messages to the public, and it would really be beneficial if she came out and said that the restaurants are safe to go to," said Charles Gauthier.
And on Thursday she did just that. "Yes I do encourage people," said Dr. Henry. "It will be different and it will be a little awkward at first, at least it was for me. A little anxiety provoking. But you know it what? It was great. And we need to get back to those social connections that are done in a safe way."
Gauthier would also like to see increased capacity, saying the 50 per cent rule "isn’t going to cut it in terms of our restaurants being able to survive."
Ault says at the moment the increased capacity isn’t needed most days, but it would be helpful on Friday and Saturday nights.
"Getting up to 75 per cent would be great, it just gives us a lot more flexibility," he said. He agrees with Yacoub that as many as half of Vancouver restaurants likely won’t survive COVID-19. But he hopes Hapa Izakaya is among the 50 per cent that will.