'The last thing anybody wants is an outbreak': B.C. wineries take COVID-19 precautions
ABBOTSFORD, B.C. -- Warmer weather has finally arrived in Vancouver, along with the return of summer activities. With the focus this year on staying local, more people are looking to wineries in the Fraser Valley.
Single Tree Winery in Abbotsford reopened three weeks ago with a number of changes to comply with physical distancing measures. The winery was granted outdoor licensing to do tastings in its garden; and there are plexiglass partitions in the tasting room and sanitization stations around the property.
Debbie Etsell is one of the owners. She told CTV News Vancouver the option to go outside was big help for the business.
“Being able to have people two meters apart reduced our capacity by more than half in our tasting room so the outdoor tasting area has been a great saver for us,” she said.
It’s a similar situation up the road at Mt. Lehman Winery, which has a tasting room and an outdoor barn that’s used to store wine barrels. Before the COVID-19 pandemic it was also used for large dining events.
“It was beautiful, tables go right down the middle, chairs on each side,” said owner Vern Seimens. “One day we will again have events with more than 50 people.”
The events held there now are tastings, and both venues are at capacity almost every weekend as B.C. locals heed the advice of health officials and explore their own backyards. But there is still the ever-present fear of a second wave causing tighter restrictions to return.
“I don't even want to think about that, but I know it’s out there,” said Seimens. “I’m worried about fall; if we have to shut down again, it’d be really tough. We’re a small business. It’s kind of like hanging on by your fingernails.”
B.C. has seen a steady increase in new cases since stage three of reopening. On Friday, the province recorded 28 new cases, the highest number of new cases reported in a 24-hour period since May 8. There have also been community exposures in places like Kelowna and Oliver.
When Etsell hears news like that, she says it’s even more incentive to stay vigilant.
“The last thing anybody wants is an outbreak of any kind at their place, so you take every precaution you can to make sure both yourself, your staff and your guests are going to be safe,” she said.
Seimens adds the fear shouldn’t stop anyone from visiting local wineries.
“What's better than wine tasting in the Fraser Valley? It’s beautiful out here,” he said.