KELOWNA (NEWS 1130) – The owners of Big White Ski Resort near Kelowna are taking legal action to terminate the lease of a restaurant where a crowded party was held Monday night.
Senior VP Michael J. Ballingall says Charley Victoria’s has already been shut down and more action could be coming from WorkSafeBC, the province’s Liquor Distribution Branch, and the Interior Health authority.
“There was simply just no management,” Ballingall said Wednesday. “The facility is owned by Big White Ski Resort Ltd. and leased to the proprietor of the restaurant. We are terminating the lease and evicting the restaurant holder of the license.”
Video shows a large crowd inside Charley Victoria’s, with partygoers dancing, not social distancing, and not wearing facemasks.
“We’re very nervous. People aren’t listening to the provincial health officer’s orders,” Ballingall said.
Priority now is contact tracing.
Ballingall says, at this point, 2 @BigWhite employees identified as party-goers have been fired.
— Marcella Bernardo (@Bernardo1130) March 31, 2021
The resort has also announced it is shutting down for the season early. It will close on April 5, six days earlier than previously scheduled.
“With most B.C. resorts closing as of Monday, April 5, and with the disregard for COVID-19 protocols exhibited at Charley Victoria’s All-Day Après on Monday evening, Big White Ski Resort Ltd recognized closing early as a necessary action to keep its guests, residents and team members safe from COVID-19,” reads a statement from Big White.
The owner of Charley Victoria’s says he takes “full ownership” for the Monday night party.
Justin Reid posted an apology to Facebook, saying “it was an ignorant decision … made out of pure selfish frustration over the recent announcement, regarding COVID restrictions.”
The party was held hours after Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced a return to a ban on indoor dining at eateries, as well as the closure of Whistler Blackcomb.
Reid says it was his decision to allow the party to happen.
“My decision to let his happen was wrong. I take full accountability for [and] accept all consequences of this poor decision. As a community, we have all been working so hard and making sacrifices to curb COVID-19 and keep each other safe, and what happened at Charley’s Monday night was unacceptable and did not demonstrate leadership or compassion for my community, in (sic) which I care deeply about,” he wrote.
Five staff members at Big White were fired after the party at Charley Victoria’s, with Ballingall calling the event “disgusting.”
“This party was truly a rager. It was out of control. It was absolutely diabolical,” Ballingall said. “This is a blatant disregard for the Health Officer’s orders, and really to the community a Big White. We’ve all been trying so hard to eliminate COVID-19 from the mountain. Our cluster was declared contained last week by the local health officials.”
According to Ballingall, after Henry called for Whistler Blackcomb’s closure because of the concerning transmission related to travel to and from Whistler and other communities, the privately-owned restaurant near Big White discounted its liquor.
“This particular establishment was going to close its doors at midnight last night, and they decided to put all the alcohol and food and beverages on sale for 50 per cent which attracted a lot of the staff from around the mountain and they had a good old fashioned party,” he said Tuesday.
Reid included the resort in his apology Wednesday.
“I would like to apologize to Big White Ski Resort, as they have shown me respect and have welcomed me into their business community during Charley’s first year of operation and I’m aware and realize what I potentially jeopardized for them, and for that, I’m truly sorry,” Reid wrote.
He also apologized to his staff and the frontline workers in his region.
“[They are] the true hero’s (sic) and have put our health and safety first as we have navigated the pandemic, I’m so very sorry for the disrespect I’ve displayed.”
While five people have been let go so far, Ballingall adds the resort is still looking for a few others.
“They know that they’ve done the wrong thing and some of them will just leave the mountain peacefully and some of them will try to keep their ski passes and we’ll have to cancel that as well,” he said.
Ballingall is pleading with people on the Lower Mainland to avoid visiting to help prevent to spread of the virus.
“We’ll love to have you when it’s safe to do so again. But right now please abide by the provincial health officer’s rules, and that is to stay local.”