Members of B.C.’s catering and events sector feel ‘overlooked’ by COVID-19 rules

Click to play video: 'B.C. wedding and event planners fed up with restriction unfairness'
B.C. wedding and event planners fed up with restriction unfairness
WATCH: Wedding and event planners say their small businesses are stuck at a standstill while restrictions have lifted for so many other operations. Aaron Mcarthur reports – Jan 25, 2022

Some members of the province’s catering and event space sectors say they feel “overlooked” by B.C.’s current pandemic health restrictions.

With Omicron still spreading rapidly, indoor gatherings of any size, including wedding and funeral receptions and ticketed parties, are banned.

Sports stadiums in B.C., meanwhile, can operate at 50-per cent capacity and face masks can be removed while patrons eat or drink.

“We feel like we have been overlooked and unheard and we need a conversation to try and change that,” said Judy Reeves, owner of Edge Catering in Vancouver.

“Unfortunately it seems that events and weddings have been targeted as one of the areas that needs to be continually shut down and restricted.”

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Since the fifth wave of the pandemic began, B.C. public health officials have adjusted some of the restrictions put in place in December to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Fitness facilities and yoga studios were allowed to reopen on Jan. 20, for example, as the province filled in more of the information gaps about Omicron’s transmissibility, trajectory and severity in fully-immunized people.

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Restrictions on indoor gatherings, however, have remained in place with no firm end date in sight.

“To us, it seems like we’re caught in the middle of a bit of a double standard,” said Katie Ley, owner of the North Vancouver event planning service Katie & Co. Occasions.

“I can hang out with 10 people at my house, no problem; I can go to a hockey game with thousands of other people yelling and screaming, no problem … but I can’t have a gathering of 10 people to celebrate a wedding at an indoor reception.”

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In response to sector concerns, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry defended the province’s public health orders.

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“It is all about looking at the risk setting, what you’re doing in that setting,” she explained. “We do know that no matter what, it’s those group settings where we’re coming together with people we care about, and weddings are a perfect example.

“We know that invariably, those are the settings that we are seeing transmission — not at every single one, but very, very many.”

Hockey arenas are much larger and better-ventilated than most event spaces for wedding and funeral receptions, she added.

Kevin Mazzone, general manager of The Lazy Gourmet catering and event planning company, said the restrictions are frustrating as “no business is designed to scale up and down like that.”

Keeping staff morale up has been challenging, he added, while calling on the province to provide the sector with the “same opportunity” it has provided to others — to develop a COVID-19 safety plan, adapt and operate safely.

“We’re looking just for the consistency,” Mazzone explained. “I think catering was forgotten and events seem peripheral when you’re working on something like COVID-19.”

Ley agreed, and said she would rather operate under restrictions than have no work at all. When their sector is out of work, she added, dozens of others are impacted, including makeup artists, photographers and florists.

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She said she has couples who have postponed their wedding for a second time now.

Reeves at Edge Catering, meanwhile, said she has had to reduce her staff from 60 to five due to decreased demand for their services.

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