VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Many B.C. restaurants and bars are relieved the province is moving into phase 2 of its restart plan. Starting Tuesday, the easing of restrictions means liquor service can continue until midnight.
Under the current rules, booze can only be served until 10 p.m.
“We had a meeting with Dr. (Bonnie) Henry and she was almost giggly and smiling. I think that’s how we’re all feeling after this long 16 months,” said Ian Tostenson with the BC Restaurant and Foodservices Association.
Indoor and outdoor dining is still restricted to a maximum of six people per table. But Tostenson says being able to serve alcohol until midnight will be great for eateries with patios this summer.
“I didn’t realize that when … initially cut off at 10 p.m., how important it was to our industry. But when you think about it, who wants to leave a patio at 9:30 p.m. when it’s so nice outside or forego that sort of nice, relaxing dinner?” he said.
Tostensen points out some restaurants will also be able to be venues to small weddings of up to 50 people.
“There are some restaurants in Downtown Victoria and Vancouver that rely heavily on those types of groups, so that’ll be great, too,” he said.
Jeff Guignard with the Alliance of Beverage Licensees (ABLE BC) says liquor sales between 10 p.m. and midnight can account for 30 per cent of business for some of these bars and restaurants.
“In a place like Yaletown or on Granville Street in Downtown Vancouver that are more lounge and club environments, that’ll be an even higher percentage. But even your local neighbourhood pub … that extra revenue that comes in will make a difference for a lot of people, giving them a chance to survive,” he said.
“There’s a palpable sense of optimism that has not existed throughout the entire pandemic,” Guignard added, noting customers will also start to notice a bit more atmosphere at bars and pubs.
“When you watch sports at your favourite neighbourhood pub, now we can turn the volume up or we might have a small DJ playing a little bit louder than normal,” he said. “So, it’s going to start to look and feel more like it used to be.”
Tostensen says bars and restaurants are now looking towards July 1, which is the earliest date more restrictions could be lifted. Starting then, we could see no group limit on indoor or outdoor dining and no restrictions on alcohol service hours outside of what their license allows.
“Pretty much July, we’re going to be back to pre-pandemic normal,” he said, noting coffee shops and other places that don’t have patio space will likely be the businesses that see the biggest difference in Phase 3.
Guignard adds in that phase of the reopening plan, you’ll also be able to play pool and darts, as well as partake in karaoke with some safety protocols in place. He notes the pandemic has been very hard on the hospitality industry.
“I know everybody’s been hit hard. But we were hit first, hit hardest, and are going to be one of the last to recover,” he said.
Tostenson notes the industry is facing a severe labour shortage and encourages people looking for work to apply at their local eatery.