B.C. restaurants could soon get the green light to reopen with enhanced precautions to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry ordered bars and restaurants to cease dine-in service on March 20.
While the province has not given a specific date for that order to be lifted, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry set a “mid-May” target for restaurants, cafes and pubs to reopen.
She said when that happens, her closure order will likely be revised to require establishments to keep tables two metres apart.
Reopening hotels and resorts with enhanced protocols could be possible by June if the COVID-19 transmission rate remains low or continues to decline.
Under the province’s plan to restart the economy, restaurants will need to have clear policies barring anyone from coming to work sick and to regularly screen workers.
“High-touch” areas must be frequently cleaned, and physical barriers, such as plexiglass, are advised to help maintain physical distancing.
B.C. is also liaising with industry as it develops its own protocols, and WorkSafeBC will have a role in ensuring compliance.
The B.C. Restaurant and Foodservices Association (BCRFA) submitted its proposals on safe operation to the province last Thursday.
Those included cutting restaurant seating by half, requiring guests in different parties to remain two metres apart, and installing temporary plastic barriers between booths and to separate guests form bartenders.
It also proposed temperature checks for staff, limiting guests to an hour in the restaurant and boosting outdoor patio capacity.
“What [people] can expect is a much quieter restaurant, maybe 30 customers at a time, everybody walking around with rubber gloves or masks — it’s going to look a little bit like being at the ER,” said Mike Jeffs, who owns Nook restaurant in Vancouver.
Three of Jeffs’ five restaurant locations are closed, with about three-quarters of his staff laid off.
Nook is doing take-out service, but Jeffs estimates business is down about 60 per cent.
When restaurants are given the go-ahead, he said he plans on accepting reservations for three or four seatings per evening. But he’s worried even that could be difficult.
“Restaurants don’t operate very well at half capacity. And without the ability to have people waiting in line and filling in the gaps, we’re not going to be able to do a whole lot of customers.”
The BCRFA says its COVID-19 committee plans to meet again this week to discuss the province’s restart plan.
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