New rules for reopening restaurants are 'intentionally restrictive'

'Restrictive' restaurant rules

The new rules to reopen in-restaurant dining in British Columbia are intentionally restrictive, to allow for a slow and methodical reopening of the economy, says Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

WorkSafeBC released its new guidelines for restaurants Friday, and late Friday evening, Dr. Henry published the new provincial health order that replaces the previous one made on March 20 that restricted in-restaurant dining. While that first order was in effect until May 31, the new order replaces that, and takes effect on May 19.

During her daily press conference Saturday, Dr. Henry acknowledged the restrictions will mean that not all restaurants and pubs will be able to open, both due to physical space restrictions and financial barriers.

“For this first part of our restart, we have put in guidance that is quite restrictive because we are not yet at the place where it is safe to have many people gathering in an indoor environment sharing food,” she said. “It's not safe for the people who are in there, who are coming together in groups, but also we need to make sure it's safe for the employees, the serving staff, the kitchen staff.”

Dr. Henry noted that government programs are still in place for those businesses that are not able to reopen, but it remains to be seen whether these programs are enough to keep some restaurants afloat.

“We have intentionally minimized the numbers of people that can be in an indoor environment, and I realize that that is going to be a challenging thing for many restaurant owners,” she said.

“It is unfortunate and that's why we have government programs to support businesses, but in terms of safety these are the measures that we need to have now to make sure that we're not giving this virus the chance to explode again.”

Over the next several weeks, public health officials will be closely monitoring the new cases of COVID-19 in the province, particularly those that are not easily linked to other known cases, to decide if they'll move to ease restrictions further.

Some of the key points from the new order include the following:

  • Patrons must be able to maintain a distance of two metres from one another, unless they are in the same party
  • There must be no more than six patrons seated at a table
  • There must be no more than 50% of the usual capacity of patrons present at one time
  • There must be no events held at the establishment that include more than 50 people
  • If practicable, you must retain contact information for one member of every party of patrons for thirty days in the event that there is a need for contact tracing on the part of the medical health officer.
  • If you are the holder of any other type of liquor primary licence and only serve snacks or appetizers but not meal services, such as a nightclub, you must close.

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