Operators of banquet halls in B.C. want to be shut down by the provincial government, to relieve public pressure on them to break COVID-19 rules and also avoid hefty fines.
BC Banquet Hall Association members say they’re in a no-win situation.
Facilities are losing tens of thousands of dollars a week in revenue, according to a news release from the association.
Members are trying to follow provincial rules to keep the halls COVID-safe, the association says, but on the other hand, customers and families are pressuring them to bend these rules.
“In most cases these families have been having private events leading up to a wedding for several days,” Sukh Mann, president of the BC Banquet Hall Association, says in a news release. “When they come to our hall for a wedding reception, we are now asking them to sit separately and not go to the bar for a drink. They are arguing with us there and claiming they are all in the same social bubble. We have no way of knowing that and end up being the bad guy for not allowing them to party how they want to. In some cases this has led to clients not paying for the venue after the event.”
A media conference about the issues is planned at Surrey’s Aria Banquet and Convention Centre on Monday afternoon (Aug. 24).
Any banquet hall guilty of breaking B.C.’s COVID-19 rules are subject to fines of up to $25,000 and jail time of up to six months.
Mann said mounting pressure from customers, and threats of fines and jail time from government, has led B.C. banquet hall owners to join their counterparts in Canada in asking government for a complete shutdown of such venues.
“We have repeatedly asked for help and guidance from the provincial health officer and governments to help us come up with a plan that pertains to banquet halls,” Mann said. “We have been given no guidelines on how to operate except to follow restaurant guidelines and in many ways that is been very challenging.”
According to the association, some larger venues have been accommodating more than one group at a time because they can be separated into sections with wall dividers or are able to portion out the seating, much like restaurants, and even provide separate bars and bathroom facilities. However, the cost difference of having a buffet as opposed to individual meals “is not sitting well with those looking to book a banquet hall and again, pressure to bend the rules has been on for most owners,” the association says.