Vancouver restaurant owner welcomes B.C. restart plan after year of uncertainty

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VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — One Vancouver restaurant owner is breathing a sigh of relief now that indoor dining is back, but says a year of layoffs, restrictions, and uncertainty has left the industry bruised and bracing for the possibility of another setback.

At 12 a.m. May 25, B.C.’s “circuit breaker” restrictions, which shut down indoor dining in March, expired. As of now, indoor and outdoor dining are allowed, with up to six people at a table.

Nigel Pike is the owner-operator of Vancouver’s Main Street Brewing, The Cascade Room, El Camino’s, and The Union. He describes Tuesday’s announcement of a four-phase reopening plan as bittersweet.

“We’ve felt like we’ve had to open a restaurant multiple times, in multiple ways, it’s been really mentally devastating for staff, obviously, not knowing what’s coming on a daily basis,” he explains.

“On a positive note, it’s fantastic. On a challenging note, it is a struggle to find staff out there right now.”

Still, the return to indoor dining means restaurants without patios can serve customers again, and those without won’t be as hard-hit if the weather is bad.

“We have lots and lots of friends in the hospitality business that have been hit so hard by the changes to the indoor dining because if you don’t have a patio that reduces your ability to have any revenue stream. So this is a massive shift to have people inside again,” he says.

“It’s a huge breath of relief to know that we can have indoor dining again. The big thing is obviously having a plan in place for the next few months, that will get us back to some kind of normality, whatever that looks like anymore. It’s huge.”

Each phase of the restart plan relies on case counts being low and vaccination rates being high, something Pike acknowledges could change.

“We’re just doing it one step at a time for ourselves because who knows what’s coming down the road. We’ve been at it for over a year and had changes thrown at us left right and centre,” he explains.

“I really don’t want to count on anything apart from indoor dining, that’s great. What’s next? Who knows?”

But the existence of clear benchmarks is something that Pike says is reassuring to himself and his staff, more than half of whom were laid off and wondering what the future held.

“We’ve been pretty much living in the dark, not knowing what’s coming and not being able to answer,” he says.

“It was just constant questions. Do you know anything? Do you know anything? And most of the time it was, ‘No, we really don’t have any sense of what’s going to happen.'”

Pike doesn’t anticipate a huge rush on restaurants, but rather a more cautious return.

“I think people are still a little bit hesitant to go out with a lot of people they don’t know, but it definitely will connect a few people who have wanted to spend time together in the last few months.”