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‘It is a perfect storm’: Smoke, labour shortage, COVID restrictions hitting Kelowna’s restaurants

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‘It is a perfect storm’: Smoke, labour shortage, COVID restrictions hitting Kelowna’s restaurants – Aug 9, 2021

Despite a bit of a reprieve, COVID-19 is once again taking a bite out of the restaurant business in the Central Okanagan.

In addition to the recently-implemented COVID restrictions, the industry is also struggling from a labour shortage and smoky conditions that have kept some tourists away.

“It is a perfect storm,” said Ian Tostenson, president and CEO of BC Restaurant and Foodservices Association.

Read more: Monday update: No significant growth of White Rock Lake fire

“We can’t necessarily control the fires and we can’t necessarily control the travel restrictions, but we can control vaccinations,” he said.

Tostenson said it’s concerning that the number of COVID-19 cases in the Central Okanagan doesn’t appear to be under control.

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“That worries us because if we can’t do that, and we can’t get people vaccinated, I don’t want to see this industry having to go back to closures,” he said.

Read more: B.C. to reduce interval between COVID-19 vaccine doses to four weeks

The latest COVID restrictions for Central Okanagan restaurants include no alcohol sales after 10 p.m. and a limit of six people at a table.

Tostenson said locals have continued to support the restaurant industry, but he’s worried about more cases carrying outside of the region.

“We have the potential to see the spread outside of Central Interior and cause havoc for the rest of the industry,” he said.

Read more: New restrictions on gatherings, bars, restaurants amid Okanagan COVID-19 surge

A number of pop-up vaccination centres have been held, and there have also been incentives for hospitality workers to get vaccinated, Tosentson said.

“Our plea is: please help us because if we go sideways, a lot of your favorite restaurants and places and things to do in Kelowna, they’re not going to survive another shut down.”

— with files from Travis Lowe

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