Friday, May 21, 2021

Chamber of Commerce calls for relaxation of Restaurant restrictions in Prince Rupert

The Prince Rupert and District Chamber of Commerce has
outlined its concerns over ongoing restaurant restrictions with
a letter to the Health Minister Adrian Dix

Health Minister Adrian Dix's email listings today will feature a dispatch from the North Coast, the correspondence one from the Prince Rupert and District Chamber of Commerce seeking a little relief from the Health Orders surrounding restaurant dining.

The letter from President Michael Gurney, which is also addressed to Doctor Bonnie Henry, as well as local government and industry officials, asks for a return to the restaurant guidelines that were in place prior to the March 29th circuit breaker being put in place by the province,  a measure which restricted dining to outdoor or take away options only.

The Chamber's notes include a look at some of the hardships being faced by the local restaurant industry, with Gurney relaying that four restaurants in the city have closed their doors having experienced a catastrophic loss of revenues, noting that they await a relaxation of the restrictions.

The Chamber President is not asking for a return to an open environment; but rather the ability to return to the original indoor dining measures of safe social distancing and other precautions that existed before the doors were ordered closed to indoor dining.

Three key considerations are offered up from the local view as to why Prince Rupert is seeking a relaxation of current measures, among them the challenges that Prince Rupert's ever changing weather can provide for outdoor dining experiences.

(1) The whole-community vaccination clinics organized by Northern Health from March 14 –21, 2021 have resulted in a dramatically-diminished regional COVID-19 case count. Only one confirmed case was reported by the BC Centre for Disease Control in the period from May 2 –8. It stands to reason that if a vaccination program can be administered on a regional level (with corresponding tangible benefits), then restrictions should be adjusted in commensurate fashion — that is, on a regional basis, and in proportion to public health risks. 

(2) The current provincial health orders allow patio dining and takeout service. However, Prince Rupert’s climate is an impediment to patio dining. The city experiences an average of 229 days of rain per year (in 2020, a full third of our average annual rainfall accumulated during June, July and August). In other words, environmental conditions do not allow city restaurateurs to take advantage of freedoms enjoyed in other parts of the province. 

 (3) Service sector labour shortages are making it diffcult for local restaurant operators to retain staff to work decreased hours. The increase of employment opportunities at the Port of Prince Rupert and its related operations has significantly curtailed the available workforce for small to medium-size businesses. Because of reduced service levels, restaurant managers are losing staff (either through layffs or resignations) whom they may not be able to re-hire when conditions improve.

The Chamber President concludes his letter to Mr. Dix with an offer to discuss the situation or provide for more information if required.

Chamber officials may not receive an immediate reply from the Minister or Doctor Henry, but they may hear of a wider approach towards the relaxation of many measures early next week.

At yesterday's COVID 19 update, Premier Horgan while taking questions from reporters reinforced that all will measures remain in place through this May Long Victoria Day weekend.  

The Premier adding that on Tuesday, he, Minster Dix and Doctor Bonnie Henry will be updating the province on the state of the circuit breaker regulations of the last month; along with a look at how the NDP government plans to move forward into the summer with its COVID response.

"The circuit breaker was going to be in effect until midnight of the Monday of the long weekend, everyone knows that, everyone heard that, and they've also heard that on Tuesday, Minister Dix, Doctor Henry and I will be laying out the roadmap going forward ...  Again the planning will begin when the orders are lifted and the orders will be lifted at midnight on Monday of the long weekend and the roadmap will be laid out on the Tuesday. I think that's the fairest way we can manage the many British Columbians, not just those in the hospitality sector, who have been outstanding by the way. This has been a challenge for them,  outside of the Tourism sector the Hospitality sector has had the most challenge because we can't have people congregating, we can't have people coming together in large numbers we understand that " -- Premier John Horgan

The Restaurant related themes come up at the fifty minute mark of the Thursday information session which you can review below. 

For more notes related to the city's Business Sector see our archive page here.

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