VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — A Vancouver restaurant owner is closing down indoor dining after initially saying this week he was unwilling to abide by provincial orders.
“Gusto” in the Olympic Village stayed open this week, despite provincial orders banning indoor dining. However, Friday night saw Vancouver Coastal Health order the restaurant to close — posting a notice on the darkened cafe’s door.
The restaurant has also been threatened with fines by the province.
Owner Federico Fuoco says while he now intends to follow provincial health guidelines, he still believes the order is deeply unfair.
“All along, I want to work with the authorities. It wasn’t to … be disrespectful,” he says. “The basic thing is we were never consulted. We were blindsided. It’s highly unfair because we’re targeted — if this was a blanket policy I can understand, but it wasn’t a blanket policy. For example, Walmart, Costco, liquor stores.”
Fuoco says throughout the pandemic, the province hasn’t been transparent enough when backing up their regulations linking the industry to outbreaks.
“We were hanging by a thread, and this is affecting livelihoods. It’s affecting small business. This could be the final nail in the coffin for a lot of businesses. So this is why I spoke up. All I asked for is fairness and consultation and be fair across the board with all industries. That’s all I ask.”
Fuoco notes his restaurant, which is able to seat 40 people, was reduced to 10 seats when the province restricted restaurants’ capacity last year.
He also says people he knows in the industry who don’t have outdoor space have spent thousands on Plexiglass dividers to allow for safe indoor dining.
“What do they do?” said Fuoco. “They’ve lost their business completely. And then the inventory that our industry has to order, we ordered on Monday … What do we do with that?”
Fuoco is pleading with the province to consult restaurants and bars, saying they need “proper forewarning” to prepare for any restrictions.
“I intend to follow the order but still speak up and to work, and hopefully government authorities will work with businesses, and this industry, and realize that government should be there to help businesses, not to impede them, and not to be unfairly targeted.
“I don’t think people really understand what businesses go through and how difficult it is to stay afloat. In good times — let alone during these times. And so all we’re asking is, let’s work together, as opposed to being blindsided.”
Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnworth had warned Fuoco was facing a fine of $2,300 for defying the order and that his actions could cost him his business licence.
“They may well find themselves facing significant penalties — not just the tickets that can be issued under the provincial health officers orders or the emergency program act but certainly could get themselves in trouble with the liquor licensing within the city. And they will not surprise me if WorkSafe for the police investigate,” he says.
So far the $2,300 fine has not been issued.
– With files from Jonathan Szekeres