British Columbia

B.C. health, bylaw officers to target large parties, banquet hall events to prevent spread of COVID

B.C.'s health minister says public health and bylaw officers are going to be checking banquet halls and large parties to make sure COVID-19 rules are being followed.

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix says private parties in public halls will be monitored this weekend

Executive director of Il Centro Italian Cultural Centre in Vancouver, Mario Miceli, said COVID-19 protocols at events are necessary although the venue has taken a financial hit. (Enzo Zanatta/CBC news)

Vancouver's Italian Cultural Centre, a well-known venue for large gatherings, has cancelled big events this summer and its executive director is fed up with businesses that hold events in contravention of health guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I think it's extremely selfish on their part," said Mario Miceli of Il Centro Italian Cultural Centre.

Miceli said businesses that don't obey the rules are making the pandemic worse.

"This isn't doing anything for the industry and more importantly normal, regular people in the community who are at risk," said Miceli.

On Thursday, B.C.'s Health Minister Adrian Dix said public health officers are going to be checking banquet halls and large parties this weekend to make sure health protocols to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus are being followed. 

"I want to make it clear that this weekend that if you have banquet halls where private party takes place you will be seeing environmental health officers and people in public health. And it's our expectation that the limits on the number of people at parties will be in place this weekend everywhere in B.C.," said Dix.

Italian Cultural Centre has a large banquet hall that can fit up to 700 people, but now the limit is 50 under public health rules.

This large banquet hall used for wedding celebrations is permitted to have a capacity of 700 people but now has fewer tables due to physical distancing rules. (Enzo Zanatta/CBC news)

Miceli says the pandemic has wiped out $1.5 million in revenue after weddings and other bookings were cancelled this summer.

"It's extremely difficult for Italians. We're a tactile group. We hug, we kiss — that's something we do not allow. There of course is no dancing."

He explained some events have been moved to an outdoor patio, staff are wearing masks and keeping track of people who attend them.

Greater good at risk 

Health officials issued a warning about possible exposure to COVID-19 at a party in Surrey's Whalley area over the August long weekend and have added several nightclubs to a list where people could have been exposed to COVID-19.

Miceli calls the increased number of COVID-19 cases in recent days "disconcerting" and hopes banquet hall operators and the public will take the situation seriously.

"We've been following the rules, have had a significant revenue loss. I'm sure it's tempting for a lot of people, but this is for the greater good and health of our community."

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