As some B.C. businesses defy health orders, others voluntarily close to discourage tourism
'We just don’t like having to police the rules,' says restaurant owner
While two Vancouver restaurant owners defied orders and stayed open over the weekend, some other B.C. business owners are deciding to close down over growing concerns about the number of visitors — and their potential to spread COVID-19.
A Nelson, B.C., restaurant owner made the difficult decision to close his patio on the weekend after a large group of people arrived Saturday afternoon who weren't wearing masks and were ignoring other COVID-19 safety protocols.
Nick Diamond, owner of Main Street Diner, said the sudden influx of people, whom he believed were from out of town, overwhelmed his small staff after arriving around 2:30 p.m.
"They were pulling tables together … and it just became this constant fight for half an hour or so," said Diamond. "We just don't like having to police the rules."
During the height of service, he made the tough call to stop serving customers over concerns for the health and safety of his staff and small community.
Meanwhile, two Vancouver restaurants that opened in defiance of COVID-19 health orders had their business licences suspended and have been ordered closed until April 20 by the City of Vancouver.
Corduroy Lounge in Kitsilano and Gusto in the Olympic Village both violated restrictions against indoor dining last week and ignored closure notices issued by Vancouver Coastal Health.
In a social media post Monday, Corduroy said it will be closed until further notice, seemingly complying with health notices issued by Vancouver Coastal Health.
Diamond says while his situation is different from the two Vancouver restaurants, he feels for all restaurant owners.
"I would guess they are making decisions based on the tremendous pressure the industry has faced in the last year and a half," he said.
On tiny Mayne Island, book store owner Gail Noonan decided to close her doors last week after experiencing a recent influx of first-time visitors.
"I love sharing my island, it's a beautiful place to be … but this is not a good time," she said.
"Especially with the variants, I feel our community is particularly vulnerable."
Variants more transmissible
In B.C., experts are growing increasingly concerned about the spread of more transmissible coronavirus variants and a consequent spike in serious COVID-19 cases that they fear could overwhelm hospitals in the province.
Doctors say they're seeing younger patients with the disease — aged 20 to 50 — requiring critical care, in contrast with predominantly elderly people who got seriously sick during the first year of the pandemic.
Noonan is considering reopening later in the spring when she can leave the doors open to bring in better air circulation. In the meantime, she will be selling books online.
Diamond reopened his patio to limited seating Tuesday morning — with the continued safety of his staff top of mind, including his aunt who works in the kitchen.
"She's in her 60s [and] I've always thought of her as the No. 1 person to keep safe," he said. "She's family. That's important."
With files from Zahra Premji