VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — The new restrictions on alcohol sales after 10 p.m. won’t affect restaurants much, but BC Restaurant and Foodservices Association CEO says bars which operate later into the night will see a significant hit to their industry.
On Tuesday, as British Columbians returned from their long weekend, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry ordered all nightclubs and standalone banquet halls to close.
She also ordered all bars, pubs, and restaurants to suspend liquor sales at 10 p.m., and ordered venues to close at 11 p.m. unless they are providing full meal service.
Music will also not be able to play louder than the volume of normal conversation in those venues.
Ian Tostenson, with the BCRFA, says he isn’t surprised to hear the new restrictions. He tells NEWS 1130 the Premier’s Office gave them a “heads up” about the new last call for alcohol sales, about an hour before Henry made her announcement.
“We were very concerned with the numbers that we’re starting to increase on a daily basis,” he says.
“The other thing is Dr. Henry did actually mentioned restaurants are doing a great job and they are doing a great job. But the problem here … is after a restaurant and people want to do something, they head out to nightclubs and bars.”
He says he is confident that it won’t be a massive hit to the restaurant industry, as “Most of the dining experience is done by 10 o’clock.” He adds the restaurant industry will cooperate with the province to do what they can to help flatten the curve.
But Tostenson also says he’s worried that not allowing bars to operate with pandemic restrictions in place may cause people to disobey the rules even more.
“We’re going to see people likely just going to have private parties buying their alcohol they can get alcohol from the retail stores, up until 11 o’clock, and then just deciding to go out and sort of do parties.”
Jeff Guignard, with Alliance of Beverage Licensees, has similar concerns as Tostenson.
After seeing people ignoring COVID rules by partying and drinking in large crowds on Granville Street last month, Guignard, says he’s worried the 10 p.m. cutoff on liquor sales will only encourage these groups to act even more irresponsibly.
“I think we’re gonna accidentally encourage people to go underground and have more private parties and private gathering when there’s no one there monitoring their social distancing and group sizes, and I’ll be frank, that’s the audience that we’ve been having problems with this whole time,” he says.
When he says "underground" he believes some people will choose to have parties where no one is monitoring sizes of the groups. "I'd appreciate more education & enforcement for those sections of society that aren't taking this pandemic as seriously."
— Ria Renouf (@riarenouf) September 9, 2020
Although Tostenson says the new rule is necessary, but he blames a handful of “flaky” bar and nightclub owners that hadn’t been following safety protocols — for what may be the closure of many bars and clubs in the near future.
“It’s unfortunate because now I think you’re gonna see this causing some real problems in terms of business closures with bars and in nightclubs,” he says.
“I feel sorry for bars and nightclubs because most of their business … starts to happen … after 10 o’clock on the rest of the evening and closing 11 o’clock it’s gonna be really hard for that sector.”
Guignard told NEWS 1130 there are two things he would like the province to offer to help bars and pubs.
“The first one would give us some clarity on what is the reopening in this sector of the economy look like? Do we have to get down to zero new cases? Are you saying you shut it down for a few weeks to get on top of the virus loads and flatten the curve? Then we’ve got your back … We need to know that because we need to try and plan and work towards that goal,” he says.
“The second thing is just because I can’t serve alcohol past 10 p.m. does not be my landlord is going to expect that my rent check is not there on time. So the federal government and provincial governments got together and extended the rent support program for another month for September, we’re going to need that done at least for the end of the year.”
Since the province’s restrictions come into effect immediately, if you have plans for going out for dinner, Tostenson suggests you make your reservation a little early.
“And know that the last bottle of wine that you can order with your meal is just before 10:00.”
The Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnworth said fines of $2,000 will be handed to hosts and organizers of events with more than 50 people and those who also don’t have a contact tracking list or anyone who hosts more than five guests in vacation accommodations, like an Airbnb.
Individuals breaking health orders can be fined $200.
– With files from Mike Hall and Ria Renouf