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B.C. restaurants forever changed a year after pandemic began

Last Updated Mar 11, 2021 at 6:33 am PDT

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

Restaurants have been hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, with many in B.C. shutting down due to lost revenue

BC Restaurant and Foodservices Association says while situation has been stressful, some establishments have adapted

B.C. restaurants continue to operate under COVID-19 public health measures, including reduced capacity

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – As the world marks one year of pandemic life, one of the most consistently impacted industries has been hospitality and restaurants.

One of the earliest changes COVID-19 brought us in B.C. was the closure of restaurants to dine-in patrons.

While many have been able to remain open through delivery and takeout options, current measures still force restaurants and bars to stop serving liquor at 10 p.m. and close early. They must also operate at a reduced capacity if they are inviting patrons inside.

“I think the hardest one for restaurants is the more or less restriction on capacity,” explained Ian Tostenson, president and CEO of the BC Restaurant and Foodservices Association.

“And in order to address that, of course we used a lot of Plexiglas. But tables still have to be a certain distance apart from each other and or protected. But I think the biggest one right now is who can go to a restaurant,” he added.

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The recommendations by the provincial health officer are to only gather with people from your close household. In addition to this, restaurants cannot seat more than six people at a single table.

“So we’re having a lot of people that aren’t going to restaurants just because of that particular recommendation — that’s been tough,” Tostensen said, noting early closures are also having a negative impact.

Pandemic measures have been a hard reality for many to survive, forcing some of British Columbians’ favourite eateries to shut down after years of serving locals.

SCOUT Magazine maintains a “Restaurant Graveyard” that shows how the health crisis has devastated the food scene, but Tostensen says it also pushed some establishments to innovate and improve.

And for those who managed to weather this storm so far, there have been some positive outcomes, said Tostenson.

“The public has developed a confidence for restaurants that never was there before, perhaps, because the industry does a wonderful job at things like cleanliness, and wearing masks, and all the different protocols in place so people actually felt really safe in restaurants,” he said.

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“So that’s changed forever how professional this industry is. We will always put safety first — we always did — but now it’s just much more in your face and it will be probably for a long time.”

He explained, owners have also celebrated being able to offer alcohol sales through takeout and delivery, as well as the new wholesale liquor discounts allowed by the province.

When it comes to delivery and pick up, more businesses have turned to these options in order to continue making some revenue, especially with reduced capacity and people’s want to eat in their homes.

“Restaurants have done an extraordinary job at innovation,” he told NEWS 1130, pointing to things like delivery gourmet food and cocktail kits.

“Some food doesn’t travel well,” he points out, adding entrepreneurs have innovated  as well packaging to help meals arrive at your home in their best form.

“That’s going to stay here absolutely for sure. I mean, there’s going to be people that, after this pandemic, will still continue to be more comfortable in their home settings than they are going out,” Tostensen said.

-With files from Amanda Wawryk