Some Prince Rupert restaurant owners are crying out about the B.C. government’s March 29 announcement to cancel all in-house dining for three weeks to prevent increased transmission of COVID-19.
Charmayne Carlson, owner and manager at Dolly’s Fish Market, told The Northern View that the move is ‘devastating beyond belief’ and will force many restaurants into bankruptcy. The decision to close in-restaurant dining is detrimental to the province, she said.
She is so ‘furious’ she had already contacted North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice by 9 a.m. on March 30 and was on her way to calling the rest she said.
“They are killing our province. They are killing business … Our provincial premier should be [expletive] spanked to allow this. I’ll never vote for him again. This is over the top.”
Interim Leader of the Official Opposition Shirley Bond stated in a March 29 press release that for weeks people have heard from Premier John Horgan vacations could be planned and the province was on the right track despite rising hospitalizations and case numbers.
“Today’s announcement was a gut punch to people in every corner of the province who have done everything they were asked and more to help prevent the spread of COVID-19,” Bond stated. “British Columbians have worked extremely hard to follow the lead of Dr. Henry and public health officials but John Horgan’s mixed messages and lack of clarity has caused a lot of confusion and anxiety.”
The government’s decision to close indoor dining at restaurants leaving only delivery or take-out affects the whole community and not just the business owners, Carlson said.
Upset and shaken at the move which gave restauranteurs less than 12 hours notice to close up shop, Carlson said she had to make some very hard ‘instant’ decisions and phone calls yesterday ‘slashing’ half of her staff, who are like family, into layoff positions with no income.
“It’s out of my hands. I was crying because these people want to work and they can’t make rent as it is,” she said. “It’s not about me. I’ll manage. I am about the community.”
Carlson said employment insurance claims for her staff will take longer to come through than the three-week “circuit breaker” closures declared by the Province.
“They will have no money, no tips. Labour costs money. If no customers are coming through the doors then there is no money,” Carlson said.
Having owned the fish market and restaurant for more than 20 years, she said she feels like she has been ‘thrown in the fire’ by the decision as she is ‘just holding the line’. She said she is furious and knows there are smaller businesses that will not make it through.
She said the closure decision should have been made for regions with higher COVID-19 counts and higher risk factors.
The business owner points out that the majority of adults in Prince Rupert were vaccinated for COVID-19 and the community has been following the rules, plus at Dolly’s, they are stringently following protocols with masks and plastic partitions between tables.
“We follow all the protocols. We follow everything they set in front of us. I’m [expletive] mad as hell. This is a total gut punch. The decision is hindering everyone and forcing bankruptcies. God help us,” she said.
Ocean View Hotel and Restaurant owner Tom Chang said the decision is not good for the restaurant industry.
“It is a real blow to the food and beverage industry,” Chang said. “It will kill off the batch that has been hanging on for the past year. This may be the last blow for them … not good.”
K-J Millar | Journalist
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