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B.C. businesses face tough decisions with new COVID-19 restrictions, call for support

Last Updated Mar 30, 2021 at 4:39 pm PDT

Indoor seating is made unavailable to patrons at Blenz on West Broadway in Vancouver (John Ackermann, NEWS 1130 Photo)

General manager of Whistler eateries says layoffs may have to happen due to COVID-19 'circuit breaker'

Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association says stronger efforts to stop COVID spread will hurt economy

Ban on indoor dining in B.C. restaurants in effect for at least three weeks

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Many B.C. businesses are now grappling with what’s next, as regular operations are halted because of the COVID-19 “circuit breaker.”

Sonia Kniehl, general manager of O&R Restaurants’ four Whistler eateries, says they were already worried about staffing into the summer.

“And now we might be forced to be laying off [some of] what few staff we do have. Some are okay with reduced hours because they also can get the CERB,” she said.

Related article: B.C. pauses indoor dining, religious gatherings, closes Whistler as COVID-19 cases rise

Kniehl says she’s also concerned that hotel cancellations are going to make even take-out and patio service challenging.

For the next three weeks, indoor dining is not allowed at any eateries and people are asked to not travel, in an effort to curb increasing COVID-19 cases.

“If these [restrictions] are only in play for three weeks, it makes sense to kind of just stay open and work on getting ready for summertime. But if it gets extended for another three weeks, then would it have made sense to have just closed, at that point? That’s the tough part,” Kniehl said.

‘If they’re not here, it’s going to be bleak,’ says DVBIA, calling for support for independent shops

Meanwhile, the head of the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association says it’s no doubt stronger efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19 will hurt the economy.

Charles Gauthier is asking the province to provide financial aid because he believes that will keep some businesses from closing or laying off more staff.

“We have to find a way to get them through … the next three weeks or the next six weeks, the next nine weeks — whatever it might be,” he said, adding those businesses are a big part of Downtown Vancouver’s identity.

“These independent restaurants and coffee shops … If they’re not here, it’s going to be bleak for people coming back to work,” he added, noting he’s already noticed fewer people in the downtown core.

Gauthier notes it is important to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including variants of concern.

“But we do need to see government support [for] businesses that are being impacted then the employees that are going to be laid off as a result of the change,” he said.

Related article: Return of B.C. ban on indoor dining could mean layoffs, closures

On Monday, the head of the BC Restaurant and Foodservices Association said “we think that we could lose maybe 30 per cent of the industry.”

Gauthier welcomes efforts by Vancouver to expand patio service, but he worries that’s not enough. He notes many outdoor structures are no longer allowed to be enclosed spaces with canopies or heating lamps.