An empty bar is seen in the Granville Street entertainment district just after 9 p.m. on St. Patrick’s Day in downtown Vancouver, on Wednesday, March 17, 2021. A public health order was issued that instructed liquor stores, restaurants, bars and pubs to end liquor sales at 8 p.m. Wednesday in a bid to control COVID-19 transmission at St. Patrick’s Day festivities. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

An empty bar is seen in the Granville Street entertainment district just after 9 p.m. on St. Patrick’s Day in downtown Vancouver, on Wednesday, March 17, 2021. A public health order was issued that instructed liquor stores, restaurants, bars and pubs to end liquor sales at 8 p.m. Wednesday in a bid to control COVID-19 transmission at St. Patrick’s Day festivities. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Central Okanagan restaurant owners frustrated following indoor dining ban

“Restaurants are painted with a brush of being the root of all evil,” said 19 Okanagan Grill and Bar owner

Restaurant owners around the Okanagan have been left frustrated and emotional after new COVID-19 restrictions shut down their indoor dining.

For some, it’s time to dust off their patios. For others without outdoor dining spaces or takeout options, the next three weeks will be challenging.

On Monday (March 29), provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced new restrictions affecting restaurants, gyms and religious groups. The province has halted indoor dining and liquor sales, indoor adult group fitness and indoor religious services until April 19. Patio dining and takeout, however, are still allowed.

Premier John Horgan said Monday that case counts have been “unacceptably high” in the past 10 days, and it is particularly people aged 20 to 39. Over last weekend, 2,500 new cases were recorded.

Meanwhile, Central Okanagan restaurant owners are speaking out.

“The second photo is what it looks like to be a business owner during COVID,” said Rustic Reel owner Susi Foerg, in a post on Instagram showing a photo with tears on her face.

Referencing her 20-plus staff at the Kelowna brewery and restaurant, Foerg said each of their livelihoods rests on her shoulders. The new restrictions will come with reduced revenue and reduced hours, and a fridge full of food will now likely go bad due to just 12 hours of notice given to them by the province. This, she said, will affect not only restaurants but their suppliers as well.

“We were so close to being able to get back to regular rent. This sets us back again, and it hurts me terribly.”

On Monday, Kelowna pub Doc Willoughby’s received a $2,700 food shipment, most of which will likely go to waste. Their patio seats just a few, and takeout isn’t really an option. Owner Dave Willoughby called the lack of notice, “disrespectful.”

“It’s just kind of disrespectful. It’s myopic and it’s my opinion they just don’t seem to understand that we need a little bit more time to kind of get our head wrapped around it and for people to make plans,” said Willoughby.

He asked the government not only for specificity regarding funding relief for the restaurant industry, but also asked them to not paint the entire province with the same brush; to consider regional restrictions where they are needed.

On the other side of the lake in West Kelowna, at 19 Okanagan Grill and Bar, frustrations are echoed.

Owner Neil Martens said the B.C. government’s “days of collaboration” with restaurants are over. While he does not envy the tough decisions the government is making, Martens said they do not include people enough in solutions.

“It’s a big public perception battle, and right now, they just need to be perceived as doing something, and so they’re taking the path of least resistance to go after restaurants, gyms and places of worship.

However, Martens is in a better spot than most, with one of the largest patios in the Okanagan. Between their partially-closed patio and open patio, they could seat 270, pre-covid. Provincial health orders now mandate that patios must only be filled to half-capacity or 50 people total, whichever is lower.

Even then, Martens is unsure whether patrons will fill those available seats. His staff will likely face reduced hours due to reduced shifts and fewer tables to fill.

He said the government has eroded the trust they have gained from their customers as being a safe place to go.

“The biggest challenges we’re going to be faced with is, restaurants are painted with a brush of being the root of all evil when it comes to spreading, and that is simply the furthest thing from the truth.

“I’m not concerned about having seating for people; I’m just worried about people’s perception, now that they think restaurants are unsafe, because of the brush that we’ve been painted with.”

Effective immediately, the Kelowna Chamber said it’s time to rally behind local businesses, especially restaurants.

“We understand that swift action is needed to curb the dangerous trend upwards, but government needs to find a way to provide more time for businesses to prepare for such sweeping orders which in this case come into effect with less than 12 hours notice,” said Dan Rogers, Executive Director of the Kelowna Chamber.

Rogers said more notice is needed to help “lessen the blow” to restaurants.

With files from Tom Fletcher

READ MORE: B.C. stops indoor dining, fitness, religious service due to COVID-19 spike

READ MORE: B.C. should help 20-39 year olds ‘just like we did for seniors’ amid COVID surge: Furstenau

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email: phil.mclachlan@kelownacapnews.com


 

@newspaperphil
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coronavirus

Just Posted

Michelle Jacobs receives her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Coast Capri Hotel on April 28, 2021. The pop-up clinic was hosted by the First Nations Health Authority. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
126 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health over the weekend

There are 22 individuals hospitalized due to the virus, and 13 in intensive care

RCMP vest
Penticton beach brawl results in one arrest but no charges

People took to social media after a fight broke out at the fire pits at Okanagan Lake Saturday

Vernon local Ryan Lazar – who specializes in 2D background design and 3D animation – is ready to start his career after a tough yet rewarding two years of studies. (Contributed)
Okanagan College students get animated at graduation

‘The pandemic has resulted in more video consumption and the animation industry is so hot right now because of it’

Road work is underway in Penticton so traffic controllers are asking drivers to be aware. (Submitted)
Message to Penticton drivers: Slow down and pay attention in Cone Zones

Over the last 10 years in B.C., 12 roadside workers died and 207 were injured

Meghan Thompson and her daughter Kennedy Lanteigne were awarded bravery awards on Saturday for helping to save the life of a baby drowning off a Naramata beach last June. (Submitted)
Penticton mom and daughter receive bravery awards for saving baby from drowning

Off duty Penticton fire captain also awarded for saving the boy’s life last summer in Naramata

An avalanche near Highway 1 in Glacier National Park. Avalanche Canada will benefit from a $10 million grant from the B.C. government. (Photo by Parks Canada)
Avalanche Canada receives $10-million grant from B.C. government

Long sought-after funds to bolster organization’s important work

Barriere RCMP nabbed two suspects who were allegedly breaking into cabins in McLure. (File photo)
Thieves nabbed by Barriere Mounties during McLure break-ins

Police Service Dog Kody instrumental in making the arrest

(File photo)
Repeated cougar sighting on Okanagan Rail Trail

Plenty of bear sightings around the valley too

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry update the province’s COVID-19 vaccine program, May 10, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate stays below 500 a day over weekend

14 more deaths, down to 350 in hospital as of Monday

Royal Bay Secondary School’s rainbow crosswalk was vandalized shortly after being painted but by Monday, coincidentally the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, the crosswalk had been cleaned up and students had surrounded it with chalk messages of support and celebration. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
B.C. high’s school’s pride crosswalk restored following ‘hateful’ graffiti attack

Hate terms, racial slur, phallic images spray-painted at Greater Victoria high school

Terrance Mack would have celebrated his 34th birthday on May 13, 2021. Mack’s family has identified him as the victim of a homicide in an apartment on Third Avenue in Port Alberni sometime in April. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Family identifies Ucluelet man as victim of Vancouver Island homicide

Terrance Mack being remembered as ‘kind, gentle’ man

A single motorcycle parked outside of the Kelowna Hells Angels clubhouse at 837 Ellis Street on July 9, 2020. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
Kelowna Hells Angels prospect sentenced to 9 months in jail for aggravated assault

Colin Michael Bayley pleaded guilty to the downtown Kelowna assault earlier this month

Salmon Arm RCMP seize a handgun, drugs and cash at a Silver Creek property on Friday, May 14, 2021. (File photo)
Police seize handgun, drugs and cash at a Shuswap property

Salmon Arm RCMP said warrant for Silver Creek revealed cannabis, possible cocaine, magic mushrooms

Vernon Search and Rescue, along with Shuswap members, rescued three kayakers near Lumby Sunday, May 16, 2021. (VSAR Instagram)
3 kayakers rescued in North Okanagan

Shuswap, Vernon search and rescue teams make swift-water rescue Sunday

Most Read