Vancouver orders all restaurant table service to shut down, closes playgrounds
VANCOUVER -- Mayor Kennedy Stewart has announced that all restaurants in Vancouver must close at midnight Friday unless they can provide takeout and delivery options.
The mayor made the announcement on Friday at a news conference where city officials delivered an update on their response to the COVID-19 pandemic. "Failure to comply will lead to prosecution," said Stewart.
Stewart said the decision would mean "serious hardship" for people, workers, and business owners, but the city felt it needed to act sooner rather than later and the decision was necessary to keep people safe.
All schools, bars and clubs had already been ordered to close by a provincial order in response to the pandemic.
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Stewart said many businesses have been limiting the number of people inside, switching to delivery or closing down entirely. However, Vancouver Police Chief Adam Palmer had informed him that officers had seen places like fitness centres and bowling alleys that were still open.
"My message to all retailers who remain open is this: now is the time to take aggressive action to do your part to limit the spread of COVID-19," he said. "If we continue to see non-essential service retailers and service providers ignoring our new reality, we will not hesitate to take further action."
Stewart described the changes taking place as "major" and acknowledged that they would have a significant impact on small businesses and "many, many people would be laid off." He said for those who haven't started taking this seriously, "now is the time."
Anyone who sees restaurants not complying with the order can call 311.
Stewart said Vancouver has been one of the hardest-hit regions in the country.
"That is why we cannot rest, we cannot slow down. That is why we keep taking bold action," he said.
All 166 playgrounds in Vancouver will also be closing in order to minimize public gatherings, and the city will be launching an information campaign about physical distancing. Park Board general manager Malcolm Bromley also discouraged people from gathering at the city's beaches.
The mayor announced the city is establishing a dedicated COVID-19 task force, which will be led by Vancouver Fire Chief Darrell Reid, who will report directly to city manager Sadhu Johnston.
Johnston also said that council has asked the city to explore the option of an automatic two-month delay to the property tax payment deadline from July 2 to Sept. 1.
When asked about whether Vancouver could see similar "shelter-in-place" orders that have been carried out in California, city officials said all options are on the table but they are not considering implementing a similar order at this point.