VANCOUVER -- When Glowbal in downtown Vancouver reopened at half capacity to in-person dining on May 21, business was booming for a few days.

"We were very excited because we thought, OK, you know what? We are very close to 50 per cent of our sales. We can survive in this environment. But that was the first three or four days, and then we start watching all our restaurants dropping again," said Glowbal president and CEO Emad Yacoub.

Yacoub’s other newly reopened downtown eateries, including Black + Blue and Italian Kitchen, are also having a tough time attracting customers. And he says the government isn’t helping.

"The message that comes every day is there’s still lots of work do. When the message is lots of work to do, people are not coming out," said Yacoub who wants the health authorities to change their tone. "Tell them to go to restaurants," he said. "You don’t need to hide in your house. You can go out and enjoy a dinner with your friends."

The lack of tourists and big events are a huge problem for downtown eateries. Piva Modern Italian, which is reopening on Wednesday evening in New Westminster, is hoping suburban restaurants fare better.

"Of the 53 seats this evening, we’re lucky to be sold out for two seatings on every seat and it shows a good start," said managing partner Christopher McFadden, who says they have reservations for the next several weeks as well.

The restaurant has done great takeout business that McFadden hopes will continue along with the half-capacity seating inside and on the patio. Piva doesn’t depend on tourist traffic, but it does need Metro Vancouverties to come out.

"This is fully counting on the Fraser Valley area, New Westminster, the community here, Surrey, even people leaving Langley perhaps to come his way," McFadden said. He’s confident Piva can make it work, saying he’s gone over and above standard COVID safety protocols. "I think moves you make as a restaurant will help successfully create more demand for your restaurant to be full."

But unless business picks up dramatically over the summer, Yacoub has a dire prediction for the restaurant industry in Vancouver.

"I don’t think the small places are going to be able to make it. I kept saying 50 per cent of the restaurants are gonna go down? I’m being generous now," he said. "I don’t think that the government understands what’s going to happen."