B.C. restaurants, tasting rooms aiming for June 1 for reopening under social distancing guidelines

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B.C. restaurants and food primary tasting rooms are looking at a possible June 1 reopening date, pending approval from WorkSafeBC, said the B.C. Restaurant and Food Services Association.

Premier John Horgan largely bypassed details of how restaurants in the province will come back online during the B.C. Restart announcement on Wednesday, but he did mention that groups like the BCRFA are putting together guidelines specifically for the industry.

Reached after Horgan’s announcement, BCRFA president and CEO Ian Tostenson said the group submitted its detailed guidelines for restaurant reopening requirements a week ago – a plan that was positively received by government.

“I think I can see June 1 if we push it really hard here, because we are so far down the road,” Tostenson said on when he sees restaurants opening their doors. “That’s the whole key here; we’ve already thought about a whole plan on how to do this. It’s written in a document, and that document is in the hands of government. If we were sitting here today, and they ask us to write a plan now, then there’s no way we can meet June 1. But I think we are close to that date.”

Tostenson said the official guidelines will not be released until WorkSafeBC approval, but added he does not anticipate any problems on that front. Likely included in the plan are the following measures seen in other markets where restaurants have reopened:

• Regular health monitoring of staff and patrons;

• Servers wearing face masks and gloves;

• Limited capacity in restaurants with widened spaces between tables;

• Distancing/crowd control in passageways to prevent people bumping into each other;

• Sanitation efforts that are highly visible to patrons.

“You can expect 100% of that,” Tostenson said. “You will see all sorts of innovations, but you will still have a great experience. It will be a little more controlled with more emphasis on things like managing traffic to make sure bathrooms aren’t over-occupied.

“We have to keep track of everything that goes on in a restaurant in a way we did before, but now we have to display it in a much more forward way for the confidence of our customers… Anybody with any hint of being sick will be sent home.”

Tostenson also noted that places like Manitoba have opened patios first, a precedent that he could see happening in B.C. as well. This – along with restaurant patrons’ likely aversion to dine inside in tight spaces after COVID-19 – means that the weather will play a bigger role than ever in the success of the local restaurant sector this year, he said.

“Patios are huge,” Tostenson said. “As we pick up a lot of the incremental business in the summer, a lot of things can go our way here. Good weather, with lots of people going outside on patios, that’s going to be easier to control than being inside. That can work to our advantage.”

• This story originally appeared at Business in Vancouver.

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