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

Traffic impacts in the downtown Kitimat area are expected to be finished by 4:30 p.m. (Jacob Lubberts photo)
Traffic impact in the downtown Kitimat area

The impacted intersections are Haisla/Lahakas intersection and Kuldo/Haisla intersection

“Skeena,” by John Hudson and Paul Hanslow is one of five fonts in the running to become the default for Microsoft systems and Office programs. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Font named after Skeena River could become the next Microsoft default

One of the five new fonts will replace Calibri, which has been Microsoft’s default since 2007

Water will be turned off in Service Centre on May 5th, from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. (Black Press Media files)
Water in Service Centre will be turned off for system repairs

The water will be turned off on, May 5th from 9 p.m. until the following day at 5 a.m.

The Tamitik Status of Women Association has been receiving anti-racism funding since 2018 and has done a multitude of initiatives over the years. Unable to host in-person events, the TSWA plans to host virtual workshops for all who identify as a woman in Kitimat and Kitamaat Village. (Black Press file)
Tamitik Status of Women Association receive $7,500 in anti-racism funding

TSWA plans to hold women’s gathering events and engage with local government about diversity policies

A Rapid Word Collection workshop took place in 2020 where the Haisla community recorded thousands of words to help them reclaim their language. (Haisla Nation video screenshot)
Haisla reclaim their native language through word collection workshops

Over 10,000 words and 5,000 recordings are now available online

Jose Marchand prepares Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination doses at a mobile clinic for members of First Nations and their partners, in Montreal, Friday, April 30, 2021. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization is coming under fire after contradicting the advice Canadians have been receiving for weeks to take the first vaccine against COVID-19 that they’re offered. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Trudeau says he is glad he got AstraZeneca, vaccines are only way out of pandemic

‘The most important thing is to get vaccinated with the first vaccine offered to you’

Flow Academy is located at 1511 Sutherland Avenue in Kelowna. (Michael Rodriguez/Capital News)
Interior Health locks out Kelowna martial arts gym following COVID violations

Actions were taken after all other steps to gain compliance were exhausted, says health authority

A man who allegedly spat at and yelled racial slurs at an Asian family was arrested for hate-motivated assault Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
Arrest made after man spits, yells anti-Asian racial slurs at Victoria mom and kids

The man was arrested for hate-motivated assault near Quadra Elementary School Tuesday

A lady wears a vaccinated sticker after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canada may find it challenging to reach herd immunity from COVID-19, experts say

Level of immunity among the population changes with the variants, especially the more transmissible strains

B.C.’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Dip in COVID-19 cases with 572 newly announced in B.C.

No new deaths have been reported but hospitalized patients are up to 481, with 161 being treated in intensive care

Solar panels on a parking garage at the University of B.C. will be used to separate water into oxygen and hydrogen, the latter captured to supply a vehicle filling station. (UBC video)
UBC parkade project to use solar energy for hydrogen vehicles

Demonstration project gets $5.6M in low-carbon fuel credits

FILE – A student arrives at school as teachers dressed in red participate in a solidarity march to raise awareness about cases of COVID-19 at Ecole Woodward Hill Elementary School, in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. ‘should be able to’ offer 1st dose of COVID vaccine to kids 12+ by end of June: Henry

Health Canada authorized the vaccine for younger teens this morning

A woman in the Harrison Mills area was attacked by a cougar on Tuesday, May 4. B.C. Conservation Officers killed two male cougars in the area; the attack was determined to be predatory in nature. (File photo)
2 cougars killed following attack on woman in Agassiz area

Attack victim remains in hospital in stable condition

Most Read