BC restaurants hoping for at least partial reopening next month

Restaurants back by May?

B.C. restaurants could be allowed to open their dining rooms as early as next month, although the provincial government has made clear that any loosened restrictions will come from provincial health officer Bonnie Henry.

When she issues orders to loosen restrictions, she will act in part on recommendations that the industry has drafted and provided to government.

Henry said on April 20 that she wanted to work with the industry to come up with “innovative ways that we can have in-restaurant dining that protects both the staff, as well as people who are coming in.”

Customers may have to pick up their food from an area in the restaurant that is behind a Plexiglas shield, Ian Tostenson, CEO of the BC Restaurant & Foodservices Association suggested.

Hand sanitizer will almost certainly be at the entrance, and customers and employees may have to be temperature-checked before entering the premises.

If the bistro has servers, they may be required to wear masks and gloves. There will almost certainly be a limit to the density within the restaurant – perhaps halving the number of seats that it is allowed to service.

Whatever proportion is necessary to maintain physical distancing, Tostenson said, would also have to allow a restaurant to remain viable.

Tostenson sprang into action when he learned that Henry wanted to work with industry to come up with guidelines for how to open dining rooms. He organized an April 22 conference call with several dozen industry insiders.

“I would love to see this industry develop standards that are so aspirational that we become a model, with Dr. Henry, for North America,” he said. “They can point to B.C. and say, ‘You know, what those guys up there did it right.’”

Henry ordered a stop to all dine-in service at restaurants provincewide on March 20 – a crushing financial blow to many in the industry.

Some switched to take-out only, or debuted delivery service, but even with those stop-gap measures many wonder how long their ventures could survive.

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