COVID-19: B.C. begins health enforcement for banquet halls, nightlife venues, and food and beverage establishments

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      While food and beverage and nightlife establishments are facing financial challenges due to changes to provincial health orders, the provincial government has announced new measures to enforce those health order amendments.

      B.C. provincial health minister Dr. Bonnie Henry announced amendments to provincial health orders on September 8 regarding nightlife and event venues and alcohol service. Henry had explained these changes were made after working extensively with the nightlife industry. However, she said that despite all efforts, these venues remained unsafe environments where transmissions were taking up large amounts of public health resources due to challenges in contact tracing. 

      Today (September 20), B.C. Public Safety Minister and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth announced the ticketing measures that will enable officers to enforce these amendments, effective immediately. These measures are being enacted under the provincial state of emergency, which has been extended until September 29.

      All of the changes that Henry announced pertaining to nightlife, banquet hall, and alcohol-serving establishments will be enforced, including all banquet halls being prohibited from holding events, background music (such as from televisions) being no louder than normal conversation level), liquor sales at all venues and private events ending at 10 p.m., and all premises closing by 11 p.m. unless a full meal service is offered. 

      In addition, all owners, operators, and staff cannot consume liquor after 11 p.m.

      Any food or beverage establishments that hold private events (such as wedding receptions) must follow the same rules applicable to hotels and other venues.

      Any violations can result in owners, operators, and organizers being fined $2,000.

      Individual patrons can be fined $200.

      Police and provincial ministry enforcement staff (including liquor, cannabis, and gaming inspectors; community safety unit inspectors; and conservation officers) can issue these tickets.

      In cases of repeat offenders, “particularly egregious contraventions”, or if tickets don’t deter violations, police can recommend charges.

      Already existing enforcement that can be taken include suspending or revoking business or liquor licenses of operators who are problematic.

      Anyone with concerns about health violations from event organizers, or individuals can contact your local government bylaw office. If a local bylaw office is unavailable, concerned individuals can contact local police on their non-emergency line.

      On August 21, Farnworth announced that officers were authorized to issue tickets for health violations for private events or gatherings, including $2,000 fines to owners or organizers and $200 fines to individuals who don’t follow direction from officers, refuse to comply with health orders, or respond with abusive behaviour toward employees.

      According to the Public Safety Ministry, 14 violation tickets were issued from August 21 to September 12, including eight $2,000 violation tickets to owners or organizers and six $200 violation tickets to individuals. Among the violations was a private house party in West Vancouver with over 200 guests on August 28.

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook.