Terrace restaurateurs “shocked” by B.C.’s new circuit breaker rules

Chairs stacked up inside Kathleen’s Grill on Tetrault Street following B.C.’s Mar.29 ‘circuit breaker’ announcement that halts in-person dining at bars and restaurants for three weeks. (Binny Paul photo/ Terrace Standard)Chairs stacked up inside Kathleen’s Grill on Tetrault Street following B.C.’s Mar.29 ‘circuit breaker’ announcement that halts in-person dining at bars and restaurants for three weeks. (Binny Paul photo/ Terrace Standard)
Owner of dine-in restaurant Don Diego’s on Kalum St. was “shocked” by the fresh set of regulations imposed at a time when businesses were just recovering. (Binny Paul photo/ Terrace Standard)Owner of dine-in restaurant Don Diego’s on Kalum St. was “shocked” by the fresh set of regulations imposed at a time when businesses were just recovering. (Binny Paul photo/ Terrace Standard)
Hot House owner Davinder Sangha understand the need for restrictions in combating the rise of COVID-19 numbers in the province but he says that small local dine-in restaurants will be hard hit by the fresh sweeping ‘circuit breaker’ rules. (Binny Paul photo/Terrace Standard)Hot House owner Davinder Sangha understand the need for restrictions in combating the rise of COVID-19 numbers in the province but he says that small local dine-in restaurants will be hard hit by the fresh sweeping ‘circuit breaker’ rules. (Binny Paul photo/Terrace Standard)

Sophia Fan was taken by surprise when a customer at her restaurant notified her about the fresh in-person dining regulations imposed on Mar. 29, after he saw a news flash on his phone screen.

Fan – the owner of Don Diego’s restaurant on Kalum St. – said that she was “shocked, worried” and “caught -off guard” when the customer read out B.C.’s new public health orders that Dr. Bonnie Henry and Premier John Horgan delivered last Friday.

“We thought the situation was getting better based on the provincial health updates and with the vaccine roll outs,” said Fan.

Effective Mar. 30, dine-in services across bars and restaurants in the province were halted for three weeks until April 19, allowing only take-out, delivery and outdoor patio dining for immediate households and core bubbles.

The province’s “circuit breaker” measures– which also include closure of indoor fitness activities and religious gatherings – were put in place after B.C. recorded a single-day record of 936 novel coronavirus cases.

Business was just picking up at Don Diego’s after a downhill slide ever since the pandemic struck a year ago, said Fan who had to turn away her regular customers a day after the new rules became effective.

Fan understands that the government has a reason for the new orders, especially after the recent surge in COVID-19 cases, but without a patio to accommodate customers, “it was sad seeing our busy restaurant empty the very next day,” she said.

Her four-member staff are worried about reduced hours as their incomes were also affected last year when restaurants were shut down.

“We’re trying to keep all our staff,” Fan said, adding that if the situation prolongs they might have to pivot toward focusing on take-out and delivery services.

Kathleen Finnie, the owner of Kathleen’s Grill on Tetrault St. had to lay off her three staff members after she received text messages about the government’s new restrictions.

The sudden announcement also meant that she would have to get rid off a lot of fresh food stock that she had purchased in advance.

“I would have appreciated a few days notice at least,” said Finnie.

“The new regulations does not make sense to me especially since we thought we were in the process of coming out of the woods,” she said.

For a small family business owner, Finnie’s biggest worry is that this setback could reel her back further into debt, adding to the emergency relief funds that she availed in 2020.

“I don’t want to be in debt anymore than I am,” she said, and added that these three weeks could be a “make or break” for many businesses like hers.

While the community has been supportive of her establishment, Finnie said that the in-person dinning restrictions are going to be hard for older folks in the community who frequent the place for coffee and socialization.

Hot House on Lazelle Ave. has an outdoor patio but the weather in Terrace is not suitable for it right now, said owner Davinder Sangha. “I’m not asking people to sit out in this weather,” said Sangha.

After 20 years of operating a restaurant business in town, Sangha said that the new regulation has him reconsidering his future in this industry.

Calling the circuit breaker a “restaurant breaker,” he also said that targeting select sectors is unfair.

“A circuit breaker should have involved shutting down everything like they did in New Zealand and Australia last year, ” he said. “I don’t get how closing whatever restaurants are left in the province is going to help, especially since we are already running in limited capacity, with protocols and screenings in place.”

Sangha said that every citizen has to do their part when it comes to managing the pandemic but with the latest regulations he feels that only the hospitality sector and restaurateurs like him are being made to carry the burden of getting the pandemic under control.

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