VANCOUVER -- At Container Brewing in East Vancouver, the small parking lot patio has been a lifeline during a year of COVID-19 restrictions.

“With our inside space being drastically reduced to 50 per cent capacity at best, this allowed us to really be able to stay afloat,” said co-owner Dan Webster.

During a three week pause on indoor dining, B.C. restaurants are allowed to keep their patios open. Breweries and tastings rooms that offer full meal service can have patios too. But the provincial health officer says if they only offer small plate food options – which is what Container Brewing serves – their patios will have to close.

“There’s been some sort of requirement that a meal be served, which we don’t understand. Where does that come from, and why? The virus doesn’t care if you’re having a beer or eating a steak dinner,” Webster said.

Main Street brewing’s patio has also been forced to close because it doesn’t offer full meal service.

“What is the difference? Since when has COVID been transmitted differently because of the amount of food that you eat?” said co-owner Nigel Pike.

Ken Beattie with B.C. Craft Brewers Guild says half of B.C.’s breweries and tasting rooms have had to close their patios.

“Yesterday you didn’t need to have a full serve menu on your patio, and today you do,” he said.

“It’s a silver lining of COVID that we’ve been able to actually put patios in front of breweries, to be able to enhance that tasting experience. And the whole point of that was to be able to move people from inside to outside, because it’s safer. And then we’ve ended up taking that piece away from breweries.”

Breweries without full kitchens can open their patios if they have a food truck on site, but Webster says that’s not helpful.

“If we could find a food truck that would be willing to stay here for our entire operating hours when the public are here, then yeah that would help us. But the reality (is) that’s not going to happen,” he said.

The industry has met with provincial health regulators and Beattie is hopeful they will change their mind about breweries and patios.

But if that doesn’t happen, Webster is worried about Container Brewing.

“If we have to basically operate as just a liquor store ... that’s not sustainable,” he said.