British Columbia

B.C. bars, clubs must close; restaurants to either close or move to takeout and delivery

After announcing 83 new cases of COVID-19 in the province, Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix announced stricter social distancing measures Tuesday.

City of Vancouver originally announced a one-day closure for all establishments for St. Patrick’s Day

All restaurants, lounges, pubs to close in Vancouver March 17 to stop St. Patrick's Day crowds from spreading coronavirus. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry issued an order Tuesday saying any establishment that cannot meet the province's test for social distancing must close indefinitely. 

"Effective immediately, businesses with liquor primary licenses, such as bars, pubs and night clubs, must close as they are unable to adequately meet the requirements of social distancing. Restaurants and cafes that cannot maintain social distancing of one to two meters between patrons will need to move to takeout and delivery models," Henry said.

She says those businesses and services that remain open, like grocery stores and pharmacies, need to incorporate  distancing measures for workers and customers. 

Public gatherings of more than 50 people — indoors or outdoors — must be cancelled.

A man wears a protective mask while celebrating St. Patrick's Day in Vancouver on Tuesday. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Previously, Dr. Patricia Daly, chief medical officer for Vancouver Coastal Health, announced Monday that bars, lounges and restaurants in the downtown core would be closed to keep large groups of revellers from packing into venues. That has now been extended to all establishments in the city.

In a statement, Vancouver Coastal Health said Daly is taking action to support that order by implementing additional closures.

"We understand this is may pose a financial hardship for operators, but the seriousness of the health care challenge that COVID-19 presents to our community cannot be underestimated," said Daly.

On Monday afternoon, Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart announced the downtown closures after confirming with Vancouver police and community members that there were celebrations still planned that could have drawn thousands of people to the area. In a statement Tuesday, the mayor threw his support behind Daly, saying people's health is the primary concern at this time.

Some B.C. establishments had already planned to stay closed beyond St. Patrick's Day.

Vancouver-based restaurant chain Cactus Club Cafe is suspending dine-in services at all 31 Canadian locations Tuesday and the Donnelly Group, which owns approximately 20 pubs and cocktail venues in the city, shut all its locations after closing hours Monday. 

David Aisenstat, CEO of The Keg Steakhouse and Bar restaurant chain, said in a statement the company will close all of its North American locations by Tuesday with plans to reopen in two weeks.

The Keefer Bar manager Amber Bruce inside her closed bar in Vancouver's Chinatown on Tuesday. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

But for many in the restaurant industry, the future looks uncertain.

Amber Bruce shut down The Keefer Bar in Vancouver's Chinatown earlier this week concerned for her employees' safety and heeding calls to stay at home.

"It was really hard. It was hard not just from a business stand point, but because of our staff. We really want to make sure we're looking after them and they're prepared for not having to work for the indefinite future," Bruce said.

Staff are still being paid, but she's hoping there will be more formal guidance from the government in the coming days. 

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With files from Lien Yeung