The pandemic has left Victoria’s cityscape unrecognizable.
The majority of British Columbia’s restaurants and bars have been closed for two months now. And many are struggling to survive.
“The pandemic has hit us pretty hard,” said Anil Dangra, who owns the Indian seafood restaurant Fishhook.
“April was a complete wipeout. We lost 100 per cent.”
Across B.C., the economic disruption to the restaurant sector is staggering. According to the BC Restaurant and Food Services Association, more than 120,000 jobs have been lost, and 10 per cent of restaurants, closed permanently because of COVID-19.
But on Friday there was hope.
WorkSafe BC set out its guidelines for restaurants looking to reopen for Tuesday, May 19th,
The guidelines are as follows:
- Must display a COVID-19 safety plan
- Max. six per table
- Two-metres between tables
- Plexiglass where physical distancing can’t be met (like over a bar)
- Hand sanitizer stations
- Protective equipment (masks)
Sit-down service is also going to look different. Each table must have a designated space the server can deliver food and drinks to. There will be no communal condiments sitting on the table. WorkSafeBC suggests digital menus, chalkboards, or online pre-ordering, as well as limiting the use of cash.
But for many smaller restaurants, the changes mean, they may not be able to reopen for sit down service at all.
“It’s going to be pretty tough accommodating people if we follow the social distancing,” said Dangra.
“We’ll be able to seat no more than six people inside.”
Dangra says reopening for sit down service will mean additional costs for him, like installing plexiglass and providing that extra safety equipment. So re-opening, may not make sense.
But the City of Victoria is looking into a solution: opening up public squares and plazas, maybe even shutting down roads, to let restaurants serve outside.
“We can act very quickly. It’s just a matter of changing a few bylaws,” said Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps.
“Staff will be coming back on June 4 with those proposed changes.”
The province is also assuring liquor licensing will be expedited.
And for the many smaller restaurants in town, they’re depending on it.
“With their support, we will survive,” said Dangra.