Despite calls from the BC hospitality industry to reconsider some of the restrictions on bars, restaurants and nightclubs in the province, no such change will happen anytime soon.
During Thursday’s press conference, provincial health officer Dr Bonnie Henry said they had not made a decision to close all nightclubs and slightly restrict sales of alcohol at 10 pm.
“It was dangerous, we had documented transmission events in several places in the province, and it was becoming increasingly difficult for public health to try to identify and contain the places which were breaking the rules,” he said. said Dr Henry.
“I understand that this is a very difficult time for people in this sector.”
On Thursday morning, the British Columbia Alliance of Beverage Licensees and the BC Restaurants and Foodservices Association released a statement urging the province to move the cut-off on alcohol sales to midnight instead of 10 p.m. The industry also criticized the lack of a written prescription, more than a week after Dr Henry announced the move and said the industry was not consulted before the new order was placed.
They also encouraged the province to double the enforcement of the law to establishments that broke the rules, rather than taking drastic measures that effectively punish the entire industry.
On Thursday, Dr Henry said she hoped the written public health order would be posted online Friday and noted that other provinces, including Ontario, Quebec and Alberta, have put in place similar restrictions.
The health ministry told Castanet that despite the new ordinance coming into effect on September 8, there is currently a “grace period” to give restaurants, pubs and nightclubs a chance to join the order. . But the Ministry declined to provide details on what this grace period actually means in practice and when that grace period expires.
The ministry also did not specify who is responsible for the application of these new ordinances.
Earlier this month, provincial health officer Dr Bonnie Henry ordered clubs to close and alcohol sales in bars and restaurants to end at 10 p.m. in an effort to stem the spread of the disease. COVID-19.
The move has been criticized by the hospitality industry, which believes it is being unfairly targeted by healthcare orders while other industries operate unhindered.
But more than a week after the order was announced, it still hasn’t been written down or posted online. As a result, some Kelowna nightclubs continued to operate as the bylaws department was unable to enforce an ordinance that did not exist.
Pubs, bars and restaurants, already facing devastating financial losses, have “no idea how to comply with an unpublished order,” according to the British Columbia Alliance of Beverage Licensees (ABLE BC) and the BC Restaurants and Foodservices Association (BCRFA).
“It’s bad enough that these orders were issued without consultation with the industry. It has now been over a week since Dr Henry issued verbal orders that have had devastating financial consequences for the British Columbia hospitality industry, and we still don’t know the exact details on how to do this. comply with it. It is an impossible situation that threatens the financial viability of our industry, ”said Jeff Guignard, General Manager of ABLE BC.
“BC’s restaurant industry was already in a shaky state, with about 50 percent of businesses unsure of whether to succeed until the end of the year,” said Ian Tostenson, CEO of the BCRFA. “Dr. Henry’s verbal order resulted in an immediate 30% drop in revenue for our industry, even though the vast majority of companies meet or exceed all health protocols and have invested thousands of dollars to provide a safe service environment. It’s crazy. ”
The industry says it is lobbying government on the economic fallout associated with the order and is asking Dr. Henry to come to the table to discuss “the impact of changes before it’s too late.”
“With thousands of businesses and tens of thousands of jobs at risk, industry and government must work together to help operators pivot and survive,” the two groups said in a statement.
Castanet News had tried to obtain information on the state of the verbal order from the Ministry of Health before industrial groups made public their concerns on Thursday.
Ministry spokeswoman Shannon Greer told Castanet on Wednesday the orders went into effect the day they were announced by Dr Henry on September 8. In the same statement, Greer said a grace period was in place to allow businesses to meet new orders.
“Right now we need to focus on the things we can do to stop the transmission of COVID-19 across the province,” Greer said. “We can do this by shutting down places where we know the untraceable spread of COVID-19 is occurring, and reducing the likelihood that alcohol-impaired judgment is a factor in the spread of the disease.”
The Department of Health did not respond to any of Castanet’s questions about the length of the “grace period” or who is actually responsible for its enforcement – GRC, bylaw or the BC Liquor Enforcement Branch. In the past, health orders were posted online the same day or soon after they were announced by Dr. Henry. The province did not explain the delay in posting the most recent order.