Ban on indoor dining leaves businesses scrambling

Ban on indoor dining leaves businesses scrambling
WatchThe recently announced indoor dining ban is being called a blow to the island's hospitality industry, with businesses now scrambling to keep afloat for the next three weeks and beyond. Mary Griffin reports.

The sun is out, so work is progressing on getting the Rooftop Patio of Victoria’s Strathcona Hotel open for business as it deals with the recent ban on indoor dining.

General manager and owner Grant Olson is hoping to have it fit for customers in less than two weeks.

“Obviously, yesterday’s news has got us all scrambling,” said Olson.

The Strathcona Hotel is a big presence in the downtown Victoria hospitality scene, with its nine venues employing up to 300 people in the peak summer months.

But Olson said it’s a very different picture today.

“As of today, unfortunately there’s going to be some more layoffs, albeit temporary until at least the 19th.”

It’s the same story down the street at Ithaka Greek Restaurant as the restaurant pivots from indoor dining.

“It just kind of seemed to everybody a big surprise,” said owner Dimitry Adamopoulos.

With a full house Monday night, Adamopoulos said the restaurant is trying to re-work its operation into mainly delivery and pickup.

“We don’t want to lay off any of our staff here. We have 31 staff that work here,” he said.

At Belleville’s Watering Hole and Diner, it’s a very different story — business is booming.

“We’ve got one of the largest patios on the island, and we’ve just invested a lot of money in our heaters, and so far the sales have been excellent today,” co-owner Rob Chyzowiski said.

Belleville’s has invested more than $80,000 in outdoor heaters, and they’re paying off, he said.

“I really can’t complain at this point.”

With patios taking over entire streets, restaurant veteran Jake Warren expects it’s going to be a tough three weeks for many.

“It is a little stressful, I know that some of the staff are going to look at EI, and other options,” he said. But Warren expects owners to help.

“It’s going to be tough on a lot of our staff. But we’re going to make it work.”

The government is still working on a program to help workers and the hospitality industry, according to B.C. Job Minister Ravi Kahlon.

“The premier’s asked me to find new supports to ensure that businesses that are hardest-hit have that. And our goal is to have something in by late next week.”

The ban on indoor dining for B.C.’s restaurants, pubs, bars and food courts remains in effect until April 19 at 11:59 p.m.

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READ MORE: B.C. records 840 new COVID-19 cases, 39 in Island Health

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