B.C. wineries could be eyeing a return soon.
On April 29, British Columbia Wine Institute began constructing a plan for the safe re-opening of wineries, while following guidelines from provincial health officer Bonnie Henry. The institute did have initial input into the BC Restaurant and Foodservices Foundation’s (BCRFA) plan for the reopening of restaurants but is now looking at expanding this plan specifically for the B.C. wine industry.
“Today we will be putting some protocols together, following the lead of Dr. Bonnie Henry and the Interior Health,” said Laura Kittmer, communications director, British Columbia Wine Institute.
“I’ve got a report from the tourism and hospitality industry, they’ve got a whole set of health and safety and protocols to follow. We are going to follow suit with what the province is recommending, what the authorities are recommending and we’ll base our protocols around those social distancing recommendations.”
While there is no set date for when the wineries are to open, Kittmer said tasting sessions will be by reservation only and will focus on appropriate social distancing on site.
“The last thing you want is lineups to get into tasting rooms or crowded tasting rooms,” said Kittmer.
“We want to ensure we are upholding the safety for everyone as well as providing a positive experience. We’re just looking at how best to create that positive experience while mitigating the risk.”
On March 20, B.C.’s top doctor, Bonnie Henry, ordered that all restaurants across the province must close its doors to dine-in guests and move to only take-out or delivery services until further notice. Since then, a survey by Restaurants Canada found COVID-19 has cost the B.C. foodservice sector 121,500 jobs since the beginning of March and more than 800,000 across Canada.
And, while the wine industry operates a little differently than the food industry, it too has taken a hit.
“Tourism is huge for the wine industry here and from that point of view sales and staffing and everything it’s taking a hit. As soon as it’s allowed, it’s something the industry needs,” stated Kittmer.
B.C. wineries will open when the province gives the go-ahead, which could be as early as next month. For now, the BC Wine Institute will best prepare for when that day comes.