As the number of COVID-19 cases climbs back up, B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry on Tuesday ordered all nightclubs and banquet halls to close once again.
In addition, all liquor sales in all bars, pubs and restaurants must cease by 10 p.m., and the establishments must close by 11 p.m. unless full meal service is still being provided.
Music or other background sounds, such as televisions, must be no louder than the volume of normal conversation to prevent patrons from having to yell close to other people to be heard.
The order went into effect immediately, although there is a “grace period” while officials work out all the details.
Also on Tuesday, the province reported 429 new cases of COVID-19 over the previous four days, including the Labour Day weekend.
B.C. now has a total of 6,591 cases.
The number of people diagnosed with the virus has been consistently climbing in recent weeks, with many days where there have been more than 100 new cases.
Back in July as part of Phase 3 of the province’s reopening plan, Henry had announced that all patrons attending nightclubs must be seated at a designated seat. There could also be no liquor self-service or dance floors, and establishments were told to take new steps to reduce lineups and choke points.
Banquet halls were allowed to reopen with new social distancing rules, however, B.C. has seen some community outbreaks due to private events not following proper health guidelines.
“It is the time for all of us to cut back on our social interactions,” Henry said Tuesday. “It means having fewer contacts with other people, particularly people we don’t know.”
Officials understand that businesses have done what they can to keep their customers safe, she added, but the numbers are rising too much.
Health Minister Adrian Dix said he knows everyone is tired of the restrictions, but people need to help flatten the curve once again.
Jeff Guignard, executive director of the Alliance of Beverage Licensees, said the changes may lead to the closure of some businesses.
Around half of restaurants, bars and pubs are not making money or are “just barely squeaking through” thanks to federal wage supports and rent supports, Guignard said.
“The only reason we’ve been able to kind of make it this far is that those last few hours of the night are always the most profitable,” he said.
“At that point, you’ve made money throughout the day, or had enough sales that you paid your rent, and those last three hours you’re finally trying to put some profit into the owner’s pocket. By taking that away now and not having to be able to sell alcohol past 10 p.m., you’re going to see some businesses that are just going to have to close because of it.”
Guignard also said the new measures could drive people underground.
“People are not going to stop hanging out past 10 p.m.,” he said. “They’re just not going to do it.”
— With files from Jon AzpiriView link »