Just days after B.C. health officials announced a new crackdown on venues across the province, representatives for bars and restaurants are asking for a compromise.
Under the new rules, businesses must stop serving alcohol at 10 p.m. The public health order came into effect immediately following the announcement on Tuesday, and had an instant impact on places like the Pumpjack Pub on Davie Street. Co-owner Vince Marino said he was “shocked” when he heard the news, and his bottom line has already taken a hit.
“I just looked at my sales this morning and we’re down 30 per cent since the announcement,” Marino said. “We’ve also cut 32 shifts.”
It’s a similar story for The Charlatan on Commercial Drive. Partner Jesse Sugarman says he’s had to cut 12 shifts from his roster, a move that “immediately affects people who depend on these jobs to pay their bills.”
To counter the new rules, Sugarman this week took to Facebook. He posted an open letter to Dr. Bonnie Henry asking for a compromise, that alcohol service continue until midnight, instead of 10 p.m. Part of the letter reads, “Its not as if at 11 p.m. the restaurant turns into a scene from The Great Gatsby.”
The post was shared hundreds of times and on Friday, the request was made official. An advisory panel made up of 11 representatives from various industries sent a letter to the province asking to extend the end of liquor service from 10 p.m. to midnight, saying it would “provide a more reasonable operating time frame and economic model for the businesses involved.”
“Those extra couple of hours a night would make all the difference and help save this struggling industry,” said Jeff Guignard with the B.C. Alliance of Beverage Licensees. “In a place like downtown Vancouver on Granville street, about 48 per cent of their sales take place after 10 p.m. Taking that away from people is going to cause them to go bankrupt.”
Guignard also questions the new time frame. “Why 10 p.m.? There’s no real logic to suggest the virus only gets out of bed at 10 p.m,” he said. “And it doesn’t mean they’re going to stop consuming alcohol, they’re just going to drive it underground.”
That message is echoed by Marino. He says customers are telling his staff they still plan to continue partying through the night.
“Around 10-10:15 p.m. patrons were asking, ‘Can we get our bills please? We got to get to the liquor store.’”
The official letter to the province also calls for greater enforcement for venues that do break the rules, including closures. It reads: “We wholeheartedly support such orders and closures in appropriate circumstances.”
Guignard says it’s unfair to target the 90 per cent of operators who are doing things well because 10 per cent of the industry is not following the rules.
“We have (health officials’) back on flattening the curve… but we have to do it in a way that doesn’t punish the businesses that have been abiding by these rules.”
Sugarman has a similar message for Dr. Henry: “We support you and we’re all in this together, we just need a compromise.”