BC bar industry wants party buses and limos to step up COVID-19 protocols after large group denies


British Columbia’s restaurant and bar industry is reminding customers not to show up in large groups and is calling on party bus operators to develop better pandemic safety plans.The warning comes after a Vancouver restaurant manager fired about two dozen people when a party bus made an unconventional curbside drop over the weekend.

Shortly after midnight on Sunday, the general manager of food services at the Belmont Hotel, Don Falconer, tweeted about a “rolling penthouse party” outside the Granville Street bar.

In the tweet, he wrote that 20-25 people had gotten off the bus and wanted to get in.

“It almost looked like a clown car, they just kept coming and going,” he told CBC News on Sunday.

Falconer was upset that a large group descended on a bar.

“It was shocking especially after all the news this week and after seeing that people are starting to understand and more and more people are starting to follow the rules,” he said.

Falconce said the facility, which has a poster of Dr Bonnie Henry on the door, has worked hard to respond to health orders and avoid being fined or shut down during the pandemic.

It can only accommodate six people per table and does not allow mingling. In theory, he said they could have broken up the large group and had them sit at several different tables.

Dr Bonnie Henry greets guests at the door of the Belmont Hotel, where a large group of a party bus was not allowed on Sunday. (Harman / CBC)

Ian Tostenson, president and CEO of the BC Restaurant and Food Services Association, agreed with Falconer that party buses carrying large groups with limited space for physical distance are a problem.

Tostenson said not letting large groups in made sense to protect customers and staff from potential exposure to the novel coronavirus.

“To kind of think that someone on a party bus would just dump 25 people and say ‘go ahead’ is amazing in this world, you know, we live in now,” he said.

Tostenson said it would be difficult to keep track of contracts with such a large group, even if they were separated into tables of six.

He wants limousine and bus companies to do more to limit the number of passengers it allows.

Tostenson suggests reducing capacity to 50 percent, screening passengers and making masks mandatory.

Any business that wants to operate must demonstrate that public health is a top priority, he said.

In a video interview, Ian Tostenson, president and CEO of the BC Restaurant and Food Services Association, said the party bus industry needs to strengthen its security measures to better protect its customers and other businesses. (Skype)

Increase security

The bus and limousine companies that CBC News contacted said they could set their own passenger limits. Masks are not compulsory.

In an emailed statement, WorkSafeBC said it does not regulate the bus and limousine industry, but employers are required to assess the risks and take steps to prevent transmission.

“If physical distancing is not possible, other levels of protection include installing barriers, such as plexiglass, implementing rigorous cleaning and disinfection practices, and personal protective equipment, such as only masks ”, we read in the press release.

Tommy Cuscito runs Tommy Limo, which offers luxury rides in the Greater Vancouver area, the Fraser Valley and the Lower Mainland.

He said on Monday he had received an email from WorkSafeBC advising him of the COVID-19 security plans.

‘We should be OK’

His company has put in place barriers between drivers and passengers. He also made changes to keep people away from operators when greeting and loading.

Cuscito said larger vehicles are used, but only at 50-60% capacity to avoid congestion.

“We won’t be able to give them six feet, obviously, but if we can give them a few feet and they all do their part by disinfecting and using the masks, [then] I think we should be fine, ”he said.

His company also only makes multiple trips in a day if the vehicle can be cleaned in between, he said.

Henry concerned

On Monday, provincial health officer Dr Bonnie Henry was questioned about the party bus crowd being turned away from the Belmont Hotel.

She said the issue of people getting off party buses and not playing by the rules has been brought to her attention at the restaurants she has been to.

“We should not endanger the staff and people who work in these contexts,” she said.

Henry said buses and limousines could work if everyone was part of the same social bubble.

“But I still have concerns about it,” she said.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here