The Nautical Dog Cafe at Skaha marina is getting its patio ready in hopes Mother Nature will provide where provincial restrictions have taken away indoor dining. (Facebook)

The Nautical Dog Cafe at Skaha marina is getting its patio ready in hopes Mother Nature will provide where provincial restrictions have taken away indoor dining. (Facebook)

‘A lot of instability’: B.C. restaurants in layoff limbo

As COVID-19 cases stay high, restaurants in British Columbia are closed to indoor dining

By Cloe Logan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer

An overcrowded workplace in downtown Vancouver during COVID-19 prompted long-time server Taesa Hodel to look for greener pastures.

After starting a new job on Commercial Drive, where she says she experienced a sense of community and support from locals, she has now been laid off for the second time since the beginning of the pandemic.

As COVID-19 cases stay high, restaurants in British Columbia are closed to indoor dining. Originally set to end April 20, the health order affecting the food industry will likely stay in place until sometime in May.

Hodel got let go during the initial coronavirus shutdown last spring when she was working as a server on Vancouver’s Granville Strip. She went back to that job when the restrictions were lifted, but says the area felt too unsafe and got a new job at The Dime on Commercial Drive.

“At the (Granville) bars, you just hear that so many of their servers were getting sick, and it just felt like it was passing around really quickly down there,” she said.

“I feel like with the shutdown of clubs and nightlife like that, it just brought out a whole different side of Vancouver.”

Twenty-four-year-old Hodel says tensions ran high downtown — hordes of people packed streets during holidays and serving staff were having to put themselves at risk to control unruly customers. Switching to a smaller workplace out of the downtown core in January significantly changed Hodel’s pandemic experience, and she found solace among co-workers and regulars.

“The only real way that we really got through, especially as servers, was because of the community support. We had regulars who’ve been coming there for years (who) dug into their own pockets, really, to kind of take care of us,” she said.

“… That is another thing that’s really been hurting people who … work along Granville Street, that (they) don’t have that kind of community support around, especially the bars.”

Hodel says her job is secured for whenever indoor dining resumes, but that the stop and start has made her question staying in the industry. And with Hodel and many of her colleagues being last on the province’s vaccine rollout plan, that has her nervous.

“There’s a lot of instability. I’ve been wanting to get out of working in bars for a while, but this just adds to it,” she said.

“It really shows you that there isn’t much support for the restaurant industry.”

Since the circuit breaker was announced, some new supports have become available. Operations affected by the restrictions can now apply for the Circuit Breaker Business Relief Grant offered through the province — $1,000 to $10,000 will be available for each business, with the bulk of restaurants set to receive $5,000 until the funding runs out. There has been a municipal response, too. Surrey city council has moved forward on its “Parking to Patios” initiative, which will allow restaurants to apply for patio permits for free while waiving the usual fees, as well as the Small- and Medium-Sized Business Recovery Grant.

Any support is appreciated, but Hodel points out that $5,000 probably won’t make or break a restaurant. That’s one night of sales for many businesses.

It’s not just restaurants in the larger centres struggling with the uncertainty the third wave brings — Jinu James, manager of Mughal Garden Indian Cuisine in Merritt, says the recent closure has meant the elimination of almost all their sales. The local population sits at around 7,000, and James says they seem to prefer dining in.

“It’s too windy, you’re covered in mountains, it’s always a little bit too cold to sit on the patio,” he said. “No one is coming to the pub, the restaurants … it’s all the same situation.”

Tourism is also a big piece of the puzzle for the restaurant. Merritt, nestled in the Nicola Valley, is the connector to the interior of B.C. and its highways. Now, with the weather warming up, James said the restaurant would usually be full of tourists. He said he’s aware of the grant, but says the owner handles the finances, so he’s not sure how much of an effect it will have on Mughal Garden.

Applications for the grant are now open and regardless of challenges, Mark von Schellwitz, Western Canada vice-president for Restaurants Canada, says the money is welcome relief.

“COVID-19 has presented significant challenges for everyone in the restaurant industry,” said von Schellwitz.

“We appreciate that the B.C. government continues to find ways to help the hospitality sector. This new grant will be of great benefit to many restaurants as they continue to adapt and change in response to the pandemic.”

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Strathcona Gardens is one of many recreation opportunities that could be investigated during a feasibility study. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Strathcona rural and municipal directors disagree on recreation study

Rural directors say study would not affect them, don’t want to pay for it

Red dresses hang on the Longhouse at Campbell River’s Robert Ostler Park on May 5, which is designated as Red Dress Day to commemorate murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls. A gathering at the Longhouse was held to mark the day and the MMWIG. Photo by Alistair Taylor/Campbell River Mirror
VIDEO: Campbell River gathering commemorates murdered and missing women and girls

Red Dress Day marked by ceremony at Robert Ostler Park

City of Campbell River crews work to repair a four-inch water main near Carihi Secondary School. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Main break leaves Campbell River neighbourhood without water

Students sent home early from Carihi Secondary, businesses closed

The arena at Strathcona Gardens could be in the running for the 2022 Kraft Hockeyville competition. File photo – Campbell River Mirror
Strathcona Gardens eyes 2022 Kraft Hockeyville competition

Winner gets to host a pre-season NHL game and $250,000 to help fix their arena

Carl Kolonsky CROP. Photo by Luke Shields
Campbell River veteran receives flowers, letter of thanks from Dutch student on Liberation Day

Dutch city honours Canadian WWII veterans for role in liberating the Netherlands

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O’Connell photo)
VIDEO: Workers, activists clash at site of Vancouver Island logging operation

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

The Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Louis S. St-Laurent sails past a iceberg in Lancaster Sound, Friday, July 11, 2008. The federal government is expected to end nearly two years of mystery today and reveal its plan to build a new, long overdue heavy icebreaker for the Canadian Coast Guard. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver, Quebec shipyards to each get new heavy icebreaker, cost remains a mystery

Vancouver’s Seaspan Shipyards and Quebec-based Chantier Davie will each build an icebreaker for the coast guard

Findings indicate a culture of racism, misogyny and bullying has gripped the game with 64 per cent of people involved saying players bully others outside of the rink. (Pixabay)
Misogyny, racism and bullying prevalent across Canadian youth hockey, survey finds

56% of youth hockey players and coaches say disrespect to women is a problem in Canada’s sport

People line up outside an immunization clinic to get their Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in Edmonton, Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Hospital investigating whether Alberta woman who died after AstraZeneca shot was turned away

Woman was taken off life support 12 days after getting vaccine

People line up for COVID-19 vaccination at a drop-in clinic at Cloverdale Recreation Centre on Wednesday, April 27, 2021. Public health officials have focused efforts on the Fraser Health region. (Aaron Hinks/Peace Arch News)
B.C.’s COVID-19 spread continues with 694 new cases Thursday

Two million vaccine doses reached, hospital cases down

Allayah Yoli Thomas had recently turned 12 years old when she died of a suspected drug overdose April 15. (Courtesy of Adriana Londono)
Suspected overdose death of Vancouver Island 12 year old speaks to lack of supports

Allayah Yoli Thomas was found dead by her friend the morning of April 15

More than 6,000 camping reservations in British Columbia were cancelled as a result of a provincial order limiting travel between health regions. (Unsplash)
1 in 4 camping reservations cancelled in B.C. amid COVID-19 travel restrictions

More than 6,500 BC Parks campsite reservations for between April 19 and May 25 have been revoked

B.C. average home price and sales level to 2023, showing steep drop in sales expected next year. (Central 1)
Forecast calls for B.C. home sales to ‘explode,’ then drop off

Average price to rise another 10% in 2021, credit unions say

Members of Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. (File photo)
B.C.-wide #DayOfMusic to feature 100-plus free virtual concerts May 15

‘Our colleagues across the province have figured out new ways to perform and connect,’ VSO boss says

Most Read