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HomeBusinessCOVID: After more than a week, NDP government still hasn’t put new rules for liquor licensees in writing

COVID: After more than a week, NDP government still hasn’t put new rules for liquor licensees in writing

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Bob Mackin

The spokesman for B.C.’s publicans and nightclub owners says the NDP government mishandled the pandemic health order that cut bar hours and shut down nightclubs.

Alliance of Beverage Licensees’ executive director Jeff Guignard said his industry calls Dr. Bonnie Henry’s sudden Sept. 8 verbal order “borderline unprofessional” and is disappointed that there are still no details in writing more than a week later.

During a news conference, Henry immediately set 10 p.m. as last call for alcohol at bars and restaurants and closed nightclubs and banquet halls indefinitely. She also ordered the volume on speakers and TVs be turned down to normal conversation-level. Only establishments that offer full meal service can stay open beyond 11 p.m.

Henry said she was concerned about a late summer surge in coronavirus infections related to liquor service establishments. But, as of Sept. 16, the public health orders website continues to list an outdated July 31 order relevant to restaurants, pubs, bars and nightclubs. Guignard said his struggling members are accustomed to operating in a highly regulated industry and not used to ad hoc announcements not backed-up with paperwork.

“Normally it doesn’t take a week to do this, so normally there is a lot more work goes on with industry beforehand; that did’t happen this time,” ABLE BC’s Guignard told theBreaker.news. “We weren’t surprised that she was going to make more stringent measures, that appear to have been coming for a while. We were surprised the order got announced without anybody having an idea of what was contained within it.”

Guignard and industry allies, including the B.C. Restaurant and Foodservices Association, appealed to Premier John Horgan, Henry, Health Minister Adrian Dix and Attorney General David Eby in a Sept. 10 letter. They complained about the policy rationale and economic consequences after Henry acknowledged that most in the industry are doing a good job to prevent the spread of the virus.

“Not having the actual public health order makes it impossible for our industry to adapt,” Guignard said. “I’m getting inundated with phone calls from members [asking] what the heck is going on, how come we don’t know?”

The letter from the Business Technical Advisory Panel said all operators are being treated as if they have caused problems, regardless of how compliant they have been.

Adrian Dix (right) and Dr. Bonnie Henry (BC Gov)

“We feel that imposing ‘broad brush’ restrictions does not reinforce the positive and necessary message that a majority of operators are doing the right thing. In addition, the impression for everyday consumers is that there are significant, systemic problems, which there are not,” the letter said.

The letter also said evening staff shifts were cut in half by Henry’s order and Downtown Vancouver pubs are suffering because they generally see almost half their sales after 10 p.m. Pubs elsewhere generate 10% to 25% of their revenue after 10 p.m.

The Business Technical Advisory Panel is asking for a midnight last call, greater enforcement and more transparent guidelines/public health targets.

The Ministry of Health communications office has not responded for comment.

As for the prospect of a snap election while his members are struggling, Guignard said it could put economic recovery at risk. “It just strikes me as a strange time to be having an election in the middle a global pandemic,” he said.

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