Uncertain times for B.C. restaurants, bars as COVID-19 precautions increase
VANCOUVER -- There’s growing uncertainty for the restaurant and bar industry as increasing coronavirus precautions have also led to some mixed messages from government.
While some provinces such as Quebec are asking restaurants to restrict their capacity, and others like Ontario have asked for full closures, B.C.’s top doctor is not telling people to avoid eating out.
“They could possibly maintain separation of people in those settings,” Dr. Bonnie Henry said Monday, referring to restaurants and cafes. “Or be looking at takeaway services, for example, as a way of modifying their business practice in this time.”
Meanwhile, Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart urged people in the city to “think twice” about going to bars and restaurants, and consider ordering in instead.
“I know tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day., but if you don’t think you can keep one metre or more away from others in your favourite bar, don’t go. If you don’t think you can keep one metre or more away from others in your favourite restaurant, don’t go,” Kennedy said.
The city has since issued a public health order requiring bars and pubs in the downtown core to remain closed on Tuesday.
In New Westminster, the managing director of El Santo restaurant Alejandro Diaz told CTV News Vancouver they are also feeling the slowdown that’s hit the industry.
“We’re very worried,” Diaz said. “It’s financially and emotionally stressful, not just for me but for all the staff and also for the guests.”
Diaz said the restaurant is taking precautions by “going above and beyond” on sanitization, reducing reservations, and increasing social spacing by moving tables, which also decreases seating. They’ve also had to change some hours, and postpone upcoming events, including an annual charity fundraiser.
“It also affects the community,” Diaz said.
Owner of the Glowbal restaurant group, Emad Yacoub, told CTV Morning Live he predicts some restaurants won’t survive the downturn.
“Twenty per cent of restaurant (could) go under because the margins are so slim in Canada,” Yacoub said. He added he’s waiting to hear what kind of government help might be coming for businesses struggling in the slump.
It’s something Diaz would like to know, too.
“We’re trying to see if we would have a break on rent, if we have a break on taxes, if there would be any financial loans or support, because it’s a business where we need to pay the bills but also we want to make sure that everyone is safe,” Diaz said.
Employment lawyer Sara Forte of Forte Law told CTV News service industry workers and others who are facing job uncertainty right now should be looking into employment insurance benefits.
“The other angle that workers should be thinking about is whether they might be entitled to severance pay or termination pay if they’re laid off,” Forte said, adding that the EI waiting period has been reduced if workers are self-isolated, quarantined or sick. “I think employers right now should be and are looking at everything and being as creative as they possibly can to try keep as many people employed as possible.”
As for the prospect of government help for struggling businesses, Forte said: “I find that the information is very obscure right now. There’s not a lot of clarity and I think frankly they’re still figuring it out.”