VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — It’s panic mode for banquet owners, as they rush to cancel socially-distant weddings and other 50 person events. This comes as the new mandate from the province for all independent banquet halls to shut down immediately — sending owners into a frenzy.
President of the BC Banquet Hall Association Sukh Mann says he’s frustrated.
“People are calling, they don’t know what to do with their guests, or what they’re going to do with the food that’s already been prepared. It’s very hard. We’ve had to call people that have events booked for the future cancel. They’re calling asking ‘what do we do?'”
Mann says he and other banquet hall owners have been spending the day cancelling dozens of pre-wedding parties, receptions, and other events at his venues.
As an owner, he says it’s a struggle to coordinate with guests, caterers, and other people affected, adding there was no “grace period” for owners to get things sorted before they had to shut down.
A big meeting was held Wednesday afternoon, for owners and operators to discuss their next steps, and forge a plan for surviving the pandemic.
“We had an open conference with a lot of the South-Asian community that had events booked this week … We came out and discussed our concerns,” he says.
“The plan going forward is, we’ve called out our local NDP government, we’ve asked them to step in and help us, and guide us, and let us know what they’re planning on doing for us. If the government shut us down, we need to know what type of financial assistance we’re going to be lined up for.”
With many questions and few answers from the government, Mann says he’s asking the province to either allow banquet halls to operate at 50 per cent capacity — with physically-distanced seating and a ban on dancing to remain in place — or give independent banquet halls the financial assistance they need to be able to pay their rents and mortgages if they must remain closed.
“We hope they’re doing something ASAP. We’ve been getting dragged through the mud since this happened. We’re the ones who are complying with the government the most. We’re trying to come up with solutions. We’re not asking for full occupancy, we’re asking for 50 per cent occupancy. We feel we can keep our patrons safe at these numbers.”
According to Mann, he and other banquet hall owners have been left with more questions than answers.
“How are we going to pay our property tax? How are we going to pay our strata fees for the buildings that we rent? How are we going to pay our lease payments? How are we going to pay our mortgage payments to our banks? There’s no source of income. We are standalone banquet halls, so what is the process?” he asks. “There is no other revenue source for us.”
If no financial aid comes, Mann predicts many independent banquet hall owners will struggle to make ends meet. He is calling on the government to provide a little more clarity on the situation, adding he wants to know why banquet halls are being singled out. From his perspective, spacious venues like ballrooms and banquet halls have enough space and the means to safely operate at 50 per cent capacity.
Mann expresses that he wants his business to be treated like all the other venues with restaurant licenses, adding that had been safely complying with physical distancing rules and dancing bans since the start of the pandemic.
“Our concerns are how we’re being singled out, and how we’re being forced to shut down based on what [the province] assumes is something to do with COVID. — But we’ve had zero COVID issues recorded at our banquet halls.”