The sun is shining and extra tables are set up outside the Fernwood Inn for patio season.
“It’ll be absolutely crucial for us this year just to get the extra seating, and also the confidence from some of the regulars that they’ll be able to be seated safely outside,” says Fernwood Inn owner Mike Colwill.
But there’s growing confusion over whether you can have a pint on the patio with friends or co-workers.
COVID restrictions in B.C. were eased last week to allow up to 10 people — who don’t have to be in the same household — to gather outdoors.
“So people naturally assumed that meant patios for restaurants or pubs and that’s not the case,” explains Ian Tostenson, president and CEO of the B.C. Restaurant & Food Services Association.
When provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry was asked to clarify the ‘household’ question at Monday’s COVID briefing, her answer led to even more confusion.
“The same restrictions are in place in bars and restaurants and pubs, so yes, outdoor patios, but the maximum is six,” Dr. Henry told reporters.
Many listening took that to mean you could sit with people outside your household on outdoor patios.
But in a statement provided to CHEK News on Tuesday, the Ministry of Health said people should not be going to restaurants with “anyone outside” of their household.
“Right now, with COVID-19 community transmission happening across our province, people should not be going to restaurants with anyone outside of their household. For people who live alone, this should be with a maximum of two people they regularly interact with (core bubble),” the ministry said.
It turns out, the ‘household’ guideline for bars and restaurants is just a strong recommendation and not actually part of the public health order, which has also caused confusion.
Throughout the pandemic, service workers have had to deal with customers challenging the rules and the confusion hasn’t helped.
“It’s sort of getting better but people are getting impatient,” Tostenson says. “They want to get out, so that’s why we’re getting this pressure — can we get more people on the patio, and pushing the system a bit.”
At the Fernwood Inn, where business is down a whopping 40 per cent since November, patio season and warmer weather will help.
“Week over week sales have increased the last three to four weeks and we’ll continue to get busier and busier, but ultimately, we’re waiting on Dr. Bonnie to lift some restrictions,” Colwill says.