Industry says the last-minute liquor announcement left restaurants scrambling
By Jessica Berget, Assistant Editor
“Guests literally were saying, no I’m not going to let you clear my wine, I paid for it and this rule is B.S.”
Many Vancouver restaurant owners signed a letter asking for an apology from Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry after she announced last minute that liquor sales would be closed by 8pm on New Year’s Eve. Henry’s announcement came on December 30, one day before New Year’s Eve, which restaurant owners argue was not sufficient time for them to prepare for this new restriction.
Meeru Dhalwala, co-owner of Vij’s in Vancouver, wrote the letter to express her and many other restaurants’ frustration with the decision. The letter has since been signed by 13 Vancouver restaurants. One part of the letter reads, “There was no prior indication leading up to New Year’s Eve that our rules for service would change. Many restaurants lost their 8 pm bookings altogether—think of the inventory and wasted food—while others became inundated with last-minute take-out orders for which they weren’t prepared […] On the last evening of a very difficult 2020, you created havoc for so many people who believed their New Year’s Eve was safely planned.”
In addition to an apology from the Provincial Health Officer, the letter also calls for a commitment from public health officials that they will receive more notice about any COVID-19 restrictions placed in the future. “Restaurants have not been found to be hotspots for any kind of COVID infection. So, we consider ourselves part of the team that is keeping our society calm, safe and kind. And so, what happened on New Year’s Eve, we had no indication that anything was going to change,” said Dhalwala in a Global News article.
Another restaurant co-owner and president of Autostrada Hospitality says New Year’s Eve was the first time he has seen customers rebel against the restrictions. “Guests literally were saying, no I’m not going to let you clear my wine, I paid for it and this rule is B.S.,” he said in a CTV News article. “It put us in a really challenging situation, we had no time to prepare for this sort of response from guests.”
Henry has since responded to this letter but has not offered an apology to the restaurant industry or agreed to given them more notice as the letter asks. Henry’s response reads, “I recognize the temporary restrictions put in place around alcohol sales on New Year’s Eve presented another challenge to the restaurant and food service industry […] The decision to limit alcohol sales temporarily on New Years Eve was made in response to concerns expressed by members of the industry, municipal leaders, and public health officials that unsafe situations fuelled by alcohol were likely to lead to an increase in the transmission of COVID-19.”
Dhalwala says she understands the reason for the rule, but the announcement’s timing left restaurants scrambling to deal with other issues like too much inventory, staff schedules, and accommodating a surplus of takeout orders they were not prepared for. “We didn’t know what to do, we didn’t know what hit us. And it was so unnecessary,” she said in a Global News article.