British Columbia

Roadside restaurants struggling, but remain vital during COVID-19

Roadside diners in small communities along the highway continue to provide food for truckers delivering essential goods and to the people in their communities.

Family-run businesses doing what they can to feed community, truckers

Mary Jane's Kitchen and Catering in Fort St. John, B.C., is making food for the community, and thanks to donations from others, they've been able to supply food for families in need. (Jessica Quintal)

The risks associated with COVID-19 have forced many restaurants to close or alter their service to adhere to physical distancing orders. But as truckers delivering essential goods need access to food and washrooms — and locals living in remote communities need to eat, too — those restaurants that are able to stay open have become vital. 

In Kitwanga, about 100 kilometres northeast of Terrace, B.C., Carly Faulkner has turned her restaurant, the 37 Grille, into a takeout-only food service. 

"We're kind of in an isolated area so I felt that staying open to the most degree that I could was really important," she told CBC's Andrew Kurjata. "We rely on truckers to bring us our goods … so we really appreciate having that service."

Faulkner has made herself available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for essential travellers to contact her and let her know when they'll need a meal. She's also giving those people access to washrooms if they need it. 

Carly Faulkner, owner of the 37 Grille in Kitiwanga, B.C., is answering Facebook messages 24 hours a day from people who need to contact the restaurant after hours. (Submitted by Carly Faulkner)

Though business has been slow at Alamo Hospitality in Kersley, B.C., owner Terry Sawatsky said they will remain open until they don't have any money left to pay their bills. 

They're only serving food through a take-out window, but they also operate a motel, gas station and RV park, all on Highway 97 about 22 kilometres south of Quesnel. 

Most customers have been locals and people staying in the motel, but Sawatsky said they've all been "very appreciative."

"There's not many people travelling so we're not selling a lot of gas," she said. "And we laid off all of our staff on the 18th of March. Family is running [the business], just trying to be here for people."

North of Kersley — a 580-kilometre trip up Highway 97 in Fort St. John — Mary Jane's Kitchen and Catering, run by Jessica Quintal and her grandmother, Mary Hopkins, also remains open to serve the community and people passing through.

In fact, thanks to donations from community members, Quintal and Hopkins have been able to donate meals to families and seniors in need. 

"As long as people are OK and fed, we'll make it through this," Quintal said.

With files from Andrew Kurjata

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