British Columbia

B.C.'s bar and restaurant industry braces for renewed restrictions ahead of Super Bowl Sunday

B.C.'s bar and restaurant industry is collectively holding its breath this week, hoping potential changes to the province's health orders don't encroach on their bottom line this Super Bowl Sunday. 

Hospitality industry wary of a New Year's Eve repeat and hoping for a heads-up on any changes to current rules

People are silhouetted while having a conversation in a Vancouver restaurant in October. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

B.C.'s bar and restaurant industry is collectively holding its breath this week, hoping potential changes to the province's health orders don't encroach on their bottom line this Super Bowl Sunday. 

On Friday, health officials are expected to provide an update on the current restrictions, which are set to expire at midnight that day. The restrictions, which include a ban on gathering with anyone outside one's household — with limited exceptions for those who live alone — are aimed at reducing the spread of COVID-19. 

Restaurant and bar owners are hoping they'll get a heads-up on any changes so as to avoid a repeat of New Year's Eve, when the province put an early cap on liquor sales at the last minute. 

"We prepared, bought a lot of food, and all of a sudden we got closed down. If you can't move that, you have to throw it out," said Thomas Stabliakas, co-owner of Vancouver pub The Main.

Stabliakas hasn't ordered extra food for this weekend. Whatever Super Bowl Sunday ends up looking like in a pandemic, he doesn't think he will need it.

Current restrictions mean bars and restaurants have to keep the volume low on TVs, tables must be six feet apart and can hold a maximum of six diners — who are supposed to be from the same household.

On Monday, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry hinted restrictions on gatherings would remain, and said no one in B.C. should be planning a party for the Super Bowl — at home or elsewhere.

"If we are not able to control this and start seeing spread again, we can undo all the good work that we have done," she said, noting that keeping case counts low means keeping restaurants and bars open.

On Tuesday, Premier John Horgan said restaurants and bars "don't need to wait till Friday to know that on Sunday the hospitality sector should not be welcoming large numbers of people into a crowded space."

'We're confident we can pull it off safely'

But bar and restaurant owners are looking for more than hints when it comes to what would usually be one of the busiest days of the year. 

Henry's comments on Monday made Jeff Guignard, executive director of B.C.'s Alliance of Beverage Licensees, nervous. 

"We're confident we can pull it off safely, but we just need to know if [Henry] has any additional restrictions she wants us to put in place so we can make appropriate changes in our business," Guignard told CBC's On the Coast. 

Guignard says he has been in contact with the province and that Henry doesn't want bars and restaurants holding contests or promoting Super Bowl Sunday.

He believes the restrictions currently in place are working, and is not advocating for hours to be extended or for capacity to be increased.

Guignard says 80 per cent of the industry is losing money and is at risk of bankruptcy in the next several months. He just wants clear direction as soon as possible, so that bars and restaurants already struggling aren't left scrambling at the last minute. 

"We have the same goals of ending the spread of the virus and keeping our patrons and employees safe," he said.

"If you have a favourite pub or restaurant out there, I strongly encourage you to stop in and support them. Because they need your support now more than ever if you want them to be there in the next couple months."

With files from Megan Batchelor

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