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B.C. restaurant group warns members to follow COVID rules – or shut down

Spike in B.C. COVID-19 cases leads to worries for food services industry

The association that represents food services and restaurants in B.C. is asking its members to adhere to COVID-19 regulations as case numbers spiked over the weekend.

B.C. has reported an average of just over 30 cases for the past five days, with Saturday numbers reaching 51 new cases.

Ian Tostenson, president and CEO of the B.C. Restaurant and Foodservices Association, said restaurants need to follow best practices if they want the $14-billion industry to survive.

“It gets into consumer confidence… they go ‘maybe I should stay in,’”Tostenson said of the recent spike in COVID-19 cases, some of which have been connected to restaurants.

“For some people, who don’t want to take this seriously, they shouldn’t be in the business.”

“We have to accept responsibility as an industry because we should understand what the protocols are.”

B.C.’s top doctor announced a tightening of regulations for the restaurant sector, including banning liquor self-service and minimizing “table hopping” inside restaurants and similar establishments. Dr. Bonnie Henry’s new order also emphasizes patrons being led to their tables, and only being allowed to go to the bathroom.

Tostenson described the COVID-19 restaurant experience as flying on an airplane, where you largely stay in your seat, with no wandering around the plane allowed.

“With restaurants, you get in, go to your table, enjoy your meal and get out, no visiting or loitering or going to see your neighbour.”

READ MORE: WorkSafeBC reports more than 300 violations of COVID-19 safety rules

Tostenson acknowledged the restaurant industry has not been immune to the complacency that other British Columbians have sunk into as numbers began to trend down in June.

“As the numbers went down, all of us started thinking ‘wow, looking pretty good. It must be going away… not realizing that it’s still there, it’s still transmittable. It’s still a formidable disease.”

But while restauranteurs need to take responsibility for following protocols, Tostenson said patrons should familiarize themselves with the rules as well.

“It’s two metres between tables, or a barrier… [but consumers] don’t realize that,” he said.

READ MORE: B.C.’s top doc tightens rules at restaurants, nightclubs as COVID-19 cases increase

Tostenson said he’s not particularly concerned about the lack of capacity maximums in restaurants. When dine-in service was allowed to initially reopen in May, there was a 50 per cent capacity limit – something that many establishments said made in financially unfeasible to stay open. Currently, there is no set capacity for restaurants as long as two metres of distance is maintained and there are no more than six people at a table.

If people are seeing more than six people at tables? “That’s wrong. If they’re doing it inadvertently, let’s get it corrected. If they’re doing because they’re just doing it, they shouldn’t be operating.”

And while masks are encouraged, they’re not required, Tostenson said.

“It’s confusing,” he said. “We’re going to make a very strong suggestion that we, as an industry, make masks necessary so we’re sending more of a consistent message.”

Tostenson said that while he’s heard concerns that staff at restaurants don’t want to wear masks, his response has been simple: “Who cares. It’s bigger than that.”

– With files from Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

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