Surrey Board of Trade Wants Recent Health Order to Banquet Halls, Restaurants, Venues to be Revisited

BC’s Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has ordered all nightclubs and standalone banquet halls to close and did so without any consultation or advanced warning, effective September 8 and until further notice. Liquor sales in all bars, pubs, and restaurants must  now cease at 10pm, with those venues required to close by 11pm unless providing full meal services. Music, televisions and background sounds must not exceed conversational level.

“The Surrey Board of Trade recognizes the important work of the Ministry of Health and the need to contain virus transmissions and continued contact tracing. However, keeping businesses and the economy viable is also vital. Issuing a general and immediate, sector specific closures and operational restrictions, without consultation or government support “will result in permanent detrimental impacts to businesses, compromising our economy and jobs,” said Anita Huberman, CEO, Surrey Board of Trade.

“The Surrey Board of Trade asks that the Provincial Health Officer revisit the order and meet with the different industry sectors to be impacted. We can’t simply close or curtail important sectors of our economy without full consultation and meaningful government support”.

Most banquet halls have the space to operate at 50 per cent capacity, with physically distanced seating and no dancing; however, they are capped at a maximum of 50 people per function. Banquet halls need a different health order arrangement to enable those business to survive.

What we are hearing from our members in this industry area:

  1. It’s not fair to close the business down. There are only so many expenses they can handle and closing the business, after an already challenging spring and summer, is not the right decision.
  2. Continue to allow the 50 people capacity without dancing:
    A function was to be held last night (September 8) with all staffing, preparations and upfront costs already incurred (food and decorations), then the shut-down order was received with no advanced notice. Who was going to pay the expenses? After extensive calls to Fraser Health and others, they were given the clearance to complete that one event, after which they needed to shut down.
  3. A general shut down of banquet halls and restrictions to restaurants and bars is not right. Imposing significant penalties or closures to those that are not abiding by the rules would be fairer and more appropriate. For example, in Surrey, creating an Enforcement Team consisting of a Fraser Health Inspector, City Bylaw officer, WCB representative, and RCMP to monitor events and providing them with enforcement or closure authority would be far more effective and enable those businesses that are following the rule to remain open.
  4. There has to be another way to address the need of this provincial health order. The businesses affected represent a multi-million dollar industry. There are so many people involved who will be out of a job from cooks to servers to decorators to organizers.
  5. Restaurants and bars, in general, have done an excellent job in providing safe, compliant services and contributing in a meaningful way to the economy and general well being of citizens longing for some type of pleasant distraction during this pandemic.
  6. Banquet halls and restaurants have been compromised by a late and disorganized government commercial rent subsidy support program. Wage subsidy programs will only go on for so long.
  7. Other related venues that offer arts/culture/music have also been seriously compromised.
  8. The new volume restrictions will effectively put the Live Music industry out of business. While the intention of this new order is to reduce the potential transmission of the virus through yelling while music or televisions are playing, patrons that attend concerts are there to quietly watch and listen with no conversation. Changes to the order must be reconsidered.
  9. It is unfair that the Live Music industry is being painted with the same brush as certain segments such as downtown dance clubs.
  10. We have been holding on for 6 months trying to start opening back up again and with these new orders, it is unclear if we will survive.
  11. Although the order was announced yesterday, there was no advanced warning or consultation and we have yet to see the revised Health Order to get more clarity on where we stand.
  12. We have spent thousands in order to comply with the rules, and now these rules put us out of business again all because of a few  businesses that have not complied with these restrictions.
  13. If the government orders a complete shutdown of an industry, then it should put relief in place immediately.

The Provincial Health Officer needs to revisit the closure and restriction order and meet with the different industry sectors that are impacted.