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Bars, pubs struggling to stay open as more closures expected: advocacy group

Summary

ABLE BC says 10 per cent of businesses have already closed during the pandemic

Up to 50 per cent of the hospitality industry, which employs at least 200,000 people in B.C., is at risk

The organization also says operators are frustrated to see people ignoring physical distancing orders

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Pub and bar owners across B.C. might never recover from the blow from COVID-19, says an advocacy group suggesting as much as half of the hospitality industry could close permanently.

Jeff Guignard, the executive director of the Alliance of Beverage Licensees (ABLE BC), says 10 per cent of businesses would have to close due to the industry-wide shutdown during the pandemic.

“Fairly early on, we knew about 10 per cent of the industry was not going to make it, [and] that did not have the cash reserves. Even though you’re closed, you still have fixed expenses,” he says.

“At the end of the day, we fully expect about half of the remaining restaurants, pubs and bars out there are probably not going to make it.”

This puts more than 200,000 people employed in B.C.’s hospitality industry at risk, Guignard adds.

And he says the longer people ignore public safety orders to stay at least two metres apart, the harder it will be for members of ABLE BC to stay open.

“To simultaneously see large members of the public who are gathering, it’s very, very frustrating,” Guignard says. “Those folks are not being disciplined or fined the way we would be if we had a pub open and we did not have our tables two metres apart and people sitting in groups of ten, the public health inspect would actually shut our business down.”

Some popular spots, including Gabby’s Country Cabaret in Langley, West Vancouver’s Squarerigger Pub, and the Storm Crow Tavern in Vancouver have already shut down.

“It’s really tough out there. There are very expensive rents in a lot of cases, liquor products they’re purchasing are very expensive,” Guignard says. “Wage subsidy program is helpful, but not necessarily enough. It’s tremendously sad as we’re going to hear more of this in the next few months.”

He suggests as many as two-thirds of the places still operating are still losing money.

“The hospitality industry was hit first, and hit hardest,” he says. “And they will be one of the last to recover.”

ABLE BC speaks for more than 1,000 businesses in the liquor and cannabis sector, and Guignard says the only places that aren’t suffering are liquor stores.