Restrictions to in-person restaurant dining that were implemented as part of a three-week ‘circuit breaker’ are likely to be extended beyond April 19 and into the next month, according to provincial industry group.
The B.C. Restaurant and Food Services Association said representatives held a meeting with the province’s top public health officials — Dr. Bonnie Henry and Dr. Brian Emerson — for a conversation that led to indications the restrictions would likely be extended through to May.
“In the meeting we expressed that there has been much inconsistency and confusion in regards to patios,” reads a statement sent out to industry membership. “We will be working with Dr.’s Henry and Emerson on a patio guidelines document which will better outline the requirements for patios and provide clarity for our industry. We will circulate as soon as it is available.”
The local restaurant scene has had to pivot once again when the latest restrictions were announced at the end of March, while the City of Cranbrook also stepped in with expedited processes for restaurants to set up outdoor patios, which are allowed under the circuit breaker restrictions.
Restaurants downtown have already set up patios along the southern side of Baker St. and avenues that feed into the downtown core, with patios either set up or in the works at Fire Hall Kitchen & Tap, Soulfood Farm to Table, The Heidout, Twisted Peaks, and The Cottage.
Elsewhere in the city, Don Cherry’s, Boston Pizza, Mr. Mikes and others are using their parking lots to set up outdoor patio spaces, according to city staff.
During Monday’s council meeting, Mayor and councillors praised the quick work done by staff to tweak seasonal patio bylaw regulations following the announcement of the provincial circuit breaker restrictions.
“I just like to acknowledge the residents and the public for the support already of the outdoor patios and outdoor venues here,” added Councillor Wayne Price. “I do a lot of walking; I do a little walk at least a few days a week through town and I’m going to tell you, a few of those days it was pretty chilly, but some of those places were very, very full and there’s people there with their blankets and everything.
“We know they’re going down there just to support local business so thank you very much and I sure hope that trend continues.”
When the circuit breaker restrictions were announced two weeks ago, the Cranbrook Chamber of Commerce called for stronger supports from the province as well as a consideration for regional approaches to COVID-19 measures.
It was a call echoed by local provincial MLAs Tom Shypitka and Doug Clovechok, as well as Kootenay Columbia MP Rob Morrison.
“I think it’s about time that the provincial government, and federal, but provincial especially in this case, start looking at us regionally and say, ‘This area can do this, and let’s allow them to do that,’” Morrison said, in a recent interview.
“Lumping us in with everybody else is not, in my mind, a great way to do business.”
The federal government has announced a number of supports for businesses throughout the pandemic, however, some restaurants and seasonal outfits have had trouble accessing that relief or do not qualify for it.
“Look at Western Canada, look at us in the Kootenays, we have hundreds of seasonal businesses because of what we have here with our mountains and outdoor activities, so for those people to be excluded…who was thinking when they put that out?” he asked.