Look for the COVID-safe sticker when you visit your favourite eatery after the May long weekend - InfoNews

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Look for the COVID-safe sticker when you visit your favourite eatery after the May long weekend

Expanding outdoor patios is one recommendation the B.C. restaurant association has made in its efforts to help its members recover from COVID-19. Safe distancing will still be required.
May 08, 2020 - 6:30 AM

Premier John Horgan has repeatedly pointed to B.C.’s restaurant association as a leader in showing how the province can re-open safely during the COVID-19 pandemic.

He and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry have stressed the importance of business showing government that they can operate safely following safe distancing and sanitation rules.

The B.C. Restaurant and Food Association has presented its blueprint for re-opening to WorkSafeBC and expects that agency to issue guidelines on Monday. The association will send those guidelines to the 13,000 pubs and restaurants in B.C. and ask them to fill out an online registration form outlining how they plan to follow those rules.

Once that’s done, the association hopes to issue signage and stickers to the restaurant owners, although the final details on what the stickers will say are still a work in progress.

“They get recognized for making sure they are taking the responsibility of public safety as priority number one,” association president and CEO Ian Tostenson told iNFOnews.ca today, May 7.

The association won’t actually review each individual plan but, he said, business owners know it’s in their best interest to follow the rules since they will likely be finished if health inspectors subsequently find them to not be following the rules.

Just what the rules will be is still unclear but, in many ways, some restaurants won’t be that different. Many may just take out a few tables in order to ensure safe distancing, Tostenson said.

In other ways, they could be dramatically different.

For one thing, they could be spilling out onto sidewalks and streets.

The association sent letters to all B.C. mayors and councils encouraging them to allow restaurants to expand or create sidewalk patios or even to close streets to allow more space for dining.

“As Dr. Henry says, a great place to be is outside,” Tostenson said. “If we can expand patios and make them bigger, utilizing dead public space, that would be a really good thing because it gives restaurant owners a chance to recoup some of the losses they’ve had.”

Even though the patios will be outside, the same safe distancing and cleanliness rules will apply.

On the inside, the association is recommending that the guidelines simply require safe distancing, rather than limiting owners to a set number of customers per square foot or as a fraction of the current seating capacity. How safe distancing is maintained would be up to each restaurant.

While some restaurants feel the interaction between server and customer is essential, others may opt to have customers order online and pick up their own food and drinks at the counter.

“There’s no game plan in this,” Tostenson said. “I think each owner is going to evaluate their service standard and their labour availability and their responsibilities around the COVID protocols and say, ‘what’s the best way I can deliver this?’ Some of it may be around – we’ll put more onus on the guests to pick up the food or order the food. It’s going to be really interesting.”

And it’s not going to be static. Tostenson expects restaurants to modify their activities as things go along.

The Premier has indicated that restaurants and pubs can start re-opening on May 19 but Tostenson doesn’t expect all 13,000 will open on that day.

While all 13,000 are not members of the association, all are eligible to register online for the stickers saying they’re following the provincial guidelines. In the end, it will be health inspectors who will determine if the restaurants are actually living up to the provincial guidelines, Tostenson said.

For more on the association’s plans, go here.


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