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'Impossible to stay afloat': Vancouver restaurant closed for 3 days over capacity infraction

The window of Tocador restaurant in Vancouver is seen in this photo shared on social media on Oct. 2, 2023. (Tocador/Instagram) The window of Tocador restaurant in Vancouver is seen in this photo shared on social media on Oct. 2, 2023. (Tocador/Instagram)
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A Vancouver restaurant that closed for three days after having its liquor licence temporarily suspended says establishments in the province are struggling to stay afloat.

Tocador, a Latin food and cocktail bar in Mount Pleasant, took to social media over the weekend saying it would be closed Monday through Wednesday due to a liquor licence suspension. The restaurant said the suspension came after an inspection that happened on New Year's Eve, claiming it was "written up for allowing (their) guests to dance and for being over capacity by about 20 people."

"Even though this was our only offence in six years of being open, the city decided to suspend our liquor licence for three days on dates of their choice, which means we have to close our doors for three days," the post shared on Sunday said. "We are incredibly disappointed with the government's decision and lack of empathy for restaurants and small businesses. It really comes across like they don’t understand how serious the crisis is for restaurants right now."

CTV News reached out to the City of Vancouver, which said in a statement it was not involved in the inspection or the licence suspension. The restaurant later confirmed with CTV News it had actually dealt with the province over the infraction.

In an email, the provincial Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General said Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch inspectors "took enforcement action to address the infraction of overcrowding." The emailed statement said the restaurant was given the option to have a three-day licence suspension or a monetary penalty.

"Overcrowding poses a serious safety risk to patrons and staff alike," the emailed statement said.

Dancing rules for restaurants

While the province said its enforcement action specifically addressed overcrowding in the establishment, Tocador said it was also warned by the province about patrons who were dancing at the restaurant that night.

"When we speak to the general public most people are unaware that's it's illegal to dance in restaurants in Vancouver," Tocador's social media post said. "That is just one of the very many rules restaurants are given."

Tocador currently operates with a Restaurant – Class 1 with Liquor Service business licence. City of Vancouver bylaws say restaurant use with that class of licence "does not include customer participation in karaoke, dancing or open microphone performing."

The province confirmed it noted other contraventions in its inspection, including dancing, but said enforcement action wasn't taken on those issues. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Tocador (@tocadorbar)

'On our knees'

In a statement to CTV News Vancouver, a spokesperson for Tocador said they're "frustrated about the intensity of the punishment."

"We are not denying that we screwed up," the statement said. "The question is why are some of us so desperate to let some extra people in to help lower our debts. Speak to any owner of a restaurant, brewery, winery or even any small business and they will tell you that behind the scenes we are hit with so much that it is almost impossible to stay afloat in B.C. right now, we are desperate and on our knees."

The spokesperson explained that while they weren't forced to close the restaurant entirely, they can't afford to stay open with just a kitchen.

"In general we sell a lot of food but it's rarely enough to cover the cost of having the kitchen open," they explained. "We fully rely on our drink sales to keep our business open."

The spokesperson also said they think it's unlikely the restaurant will still be in business in Vancouver in two years.

"We just want this city to know unless things change then B.C. will be losing even more of its independent businesses until there are very few left," the statement said.

"It's too late for some us but we hope soon we can find a way to give businesses hope that it's possible to survive as a business in B.C." 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Tocador (@tocadorbar)

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