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B.C. restaurant rebound amid COVID-19 linked to location: industry rep

Last Updated Sep 5, 2020 at 7:45 pm PDT

FILE - A couple sits on restaurant's patio on Granville Street in Vancouver, Wednesday, May 20, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)

One in four restaurants are projected to close their doors due to the economic fallout from the pandemic

Suburban restaurants are proving more resilient than downtown businesses that rely on tourism, office workers

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Whether or not a restaurant in B.C. will rebound from the effects of the pandemic seems to come down to one factor: location.

Province-wide, one in four restaurants are projected to close their doors due to the economic fallout from COVID-19, according to Ian Tostenson with the BC Restaurant and Food Services Association.

Businesses that are most vulnerable are concentrated in areas that rely on office workers and tourists.

“We’re seeing restaurants that are out of the downtown cores of Victoria and Vancouver are actually having a pretty good run of it, your suburban restaurants,” he says.

“It’s location. They are getting business locally but it’s not enough to make up for the loss of the business crowd and tourism.”

Pre-pandemic, a Canucks playoff run would have seen game-goers and fans flood downtown eateries. And while Tostensen says there was a bump in business thanks to innovations like setting up TVs on patios — it wasn’t enough to turn things around.

But the relative success of suburban eateries is one reason Tostenson is cautiously optimistic about the sector’s future in this province.

“We have a number of things going in our favour. We’ve had good weather, good support from all three levels of government. So we are going to see casualties but I’m hoping that we’re going to be on the lighter end of what has been predicted nationally,” he explains.

The industry employs 200,000 people, and closures have a human cost.

“When we lose a restaurant, we lose a whole bunch of employees at the same time,” he says.

“Then we’ve got problems from an unemployment point of view. That’s why the push is on here to really keep the sector as strong as we can.”

Shutting gown of even one restaurant has an impact that goes beyond layoffs, he notes, it means one less business ordering food and booze, and one less business paying rent and taxes.

“That one little restaurant you see on the corner of the street has got a lot of economic activity around it.”

With files from Dean Recksiedler