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BCRFA president president fears indoor dining ban running past May long weekend

It’ll be a while yet before you’ll be able to enjoy a sit down meal at a restaurant and pub in B.C.

The BC Restaurant and Foodservices Association (BCRFA) announced this week that the ban on indoor dining will be extended into May.

Association president and CEO, Ian Tostenson, added that if the COVID-19 case numbers don’t go down by next month, he could see the ban running past the May long weekend.

He is, however, hopeful that things may return to somewhat normal in time for summer.

“After we get through the May long weekend, we’re going to be in a different boat because the vaccinations, as explained to us, are in most people in June, their first shot,” Tostenson said.

He added that during their meeting with B.C. provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, she told him that she doesn’t want to see restaurants close, and was very complimentary of the industry.

“This closure is the result of variants that are in the system,” he said. “It’s not in the restaurants. But she said, ‘If I can get them open sooner, great.’ That’s what she wants to happen because she understands that apart from the health impacts, there’s also the practical impacts of the business, itself.”

Tostenson also understands that the ban was a necessary step to try to slow the spread of the virus.

“We couldn’t support the argument to open right now in view of this, the public would just lose it on us,” he said. “We have to make sure safety is our foremost attribute.”

He said prior to the ban, restaurants were adapting, “doing all right, figuring it out,” and he feels post-COVID, people are yearning to return to indoor dining.

Tostenson predicts, if the vaccines take effect and numbers go down, a strong summer and fall for the industry, if the ban is lifted.

As it stands, he says the COVID-19 pandemic has been costly for industry workers.

“(We have) 190,000 people working in the industry, I bet you there are 90,000 people who aren’t getting as many hours, at all. And that’s considerable.”

He is hoping people will order takeout and visit patios, which will help keep community restaurants above water until the pandemic is behind us.

“If you eat out once a week and you order in, then order in three or four times a week, and when you do that, tip all the service workers well,” Tostenson said. “It could be the difference between that business in the community, the restaurant industry, whether they make it to the end of May or not. It’s that critical.” 

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