Dave Kral and his staff at the Cobblestone Inn in Cobble Hill are frustrated with the latest restrictions on indoor dining in restaurants imposed by the province on March 29 as the numbers of cases of COVID-19 across B.C. continues to rise.
It’s the second time since the pandemic began that Kral has been forced to shut down his dining room, and he said the interruptions to his business have made it very difficult for him and his staff of approximately 50 people, of whom about 90 per cent are currently laid off due to the health protocols now in place.
“There’s a ton of frustration here while we wait for the province to decide on April 19 if we can reopen the dining room,” Kral said.
“It’s very hard to plan for the future when we don’t know what will happen. Fortunately, our liquor store is still open and we’re still operating a takeout service from our kitchen, but the revenue from the takeout is nowhere near what we would have had from the dining room. We probably won’t be able to continue the takeout service if the numbers don’t get better. We were also only given 12 hours notice on March 29 to shut down the dining room and we have about $12,000 in inventory, with much of it perishable.”
B.C. Premier John Horgan joined Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and B.C. Minister of Health Adrian Dix at a briefing on March 29 to introduce sweeping new restrictions on indoor dining in restaurants, group fitness and worship services as COVID-19 cases surged in the province.
Calling it a three-week “circuit breaker”-style lockdown, the officials suspended indoor dining at all food and liquor-serving premises, and they were ordered to pivot to takeout or delivery service, as well as patio dining if possible, for the time being.
Other restaurants in the region are experiencing many of the same issues as the Cobblestone Inn.
Andrea Laite, manager of Duncan’s CVI Restaurant and Lounge, said the hospitality industry has already been so hurt by the pandemic, these new restrictions feel like an unnecessary blow.
She said her restaurant and lounge have had stringent cleaning and safety procedures in place for dine-in service, and now it feels that everything they have been doing was all in vain.
“We will continue to survive for as long as we can but, with all the challenges that we have faced over the past year, and now this, it’s just not sustainable,” Laite said.
“We have laid off most of the staff, including three new staff members. This is a frustrating time for all business owners, but we are trying to stay positive that this pandemic will come to an end soon.”
Laite added that, like the Cobblestone Inn, the short notice of the new restrictions has left the business with an abundance of inventory.
“We are doing our best to move product but, unlike most restaurants, we do not have a patio so we need to rely solely on takeout and our delivery business,” she said.
“We have had enormous support from the community and it is so appreciated. We are currently awaiting a response on the temporary extension of our liquor licence so we can set up a temporary patio.”
Jacob Hokanson, from Cowichan Bay’s Rock Cod Café, said the new round of restrictions still feels pretty fresh and he’s still actively considering all the angles of impact; some of which are obvious, others that are not.
“It behooves us to roll with the punches when they were delivered,” he said.
“Three weeks is not a long time. All we can really ask at this time is all we’ve ever asked; if you [the reader] love what we do, show us that love in whatever way the restrictions will allow you to. It will guarantee that we’ll still be here long after the pandemic has been mitigated.
Hokanson said he’s stunned by the level of support the business has already been shown by the community, and he couldn’t have imagined a more supportive, committed, incredible response to the present situation from his suppliers, advocacy groups like the Duncan Cowichan Chamber of Commerce and the provincial and federal governments for their easy-to-access loans during the pandemic.
“We’ve learned to be extremely light on our feet over this last year, so in a lot of ways, [the new restrictions] are just another thing to take in stride,” he said.