It’s official: all Vancouver restaurants and bars will not be allowed to continue offering dine-in services as of midnight tonight (March 20) due to the COVID-19 pandemic, regardless of whether they meet requirements of safe social distancing.
At a press briefing this afternoon, City of Vancouver mayor Kennedy Stewart said Vancouver Police Department’s chief constable Adam Palmer and his officers were still observing people in restaurants and cafes in close proximity.
“That is why we are exercising our new emergency powers,” said Stewart. “By order of the city manager, all restaurants and bars are to discontinue dine-in service effective midnight tonight.”
The mayor also emphasized that failure to comply will lead to prosecution.
City of Vancouver’s city manager, Sadhu Johnston, said those that do not heed will receive an order on their door.
“If you are seeing restaurants that are not complying, call 311 and let us know and we will be out and be working to do what we can to enforce this order,” added Johnston. “Any establishments found to operating as of 12:01 Saturday morning will be subject to enforcement.”
Before this order was instated, there was a lot of confusion among the local restaurant industry on official health guidelines to operate.
But many dining spots around the city have already voluntarily closed its doors, with some announcing temporary closures as early as last week. Takeout and delivery options will have to become the new norm for eateries until further notice.
“It will mean serious hardship for people, workers, and business owners. But this is an action implemented in many other cities around the world, and we felt we needed to act sooner rather than later,” said Stewart. “Some will ask why. And why? Because it’s all about keeping people safe.”
The mayor acknowledges that many establishments have already done the right thing by closing its doors or switching to takeout and delivery services.
“These changes and the new reality is having significant economic impacts on our local economy, especially for small businesses who may not have the fiscal capacity to withstand a long closure,” the mayor added. “I want you all to know that we hear you.”
According to Stewart, immediate relief measures include directing the finance team to implement a 60-day grace period for all property tax payments. The city is currently working on it and details will follow soon.
There will also be a formation of an economic recovery task force, which will provide outreach to the business community. Senior finance staff will unite and look at options to assist Vancouver’s local economy with immediate assistance and longer term recovery.
“Now is the time to take aggression action to do your part and limit the spread of COVID-19,” said Stewart.