Although his restaurant has a large patio, Moose Mulligans owner Denny Loughran is frustrated with the recent public health order which shut down indoor dining across B.C. on short notice. (Jim Elliot-Eagle Valley News)

Although his restaurant has a large patio, Moose Mulligans owner Denny Loughran is frustrated with the recent public health order which shut down indoor dining across B.C. on short notice. (Jim Elliot-Eagle Valley News)

New COVID-19 rules frustrate Shuswap restaurateurs

Business owners upset with B.C. government not providing advance notice

Frustration is the prevailing feeling for Denny Loughran as he retools operations at Moose Mulligans Public Eatery in Sicamous, hoping to keep his staff of over 35 working.

The cause of the frustration is a public health order issued on March 29 which has forced restaurants across the province to close their indoor dining rooms and only serve people seated outside or picking up takeout. The measures are supposed to be in place for three weeks as a “circuit breaker” to slow rising COVID-19 case totals, but Loughran is concerned about its impact on his business, his staff and the industry as a whole.

He said Moose Mulligans has done everything that was asked of them to make indoor dining safe and passed multiple inspections from Interior Health and WorkSafeBC.

Loughran said he recognizes that COVID-19 cases are on the rise but thinks restrictions could be rolled out region by region in order to keep areas where the case count is lower open.

“Don’t punish everyone because of Whistler and Big White,” he said.

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Loughran said that Moose Mulligans’ large patio makes it fairly well suited to weathering the indoor dining shutdown but it is another setback for businesses already dealing with reduced indoor capacity and longer shutdowns last year.

Although the shut down creates hardships for businesses, Loughran said it can also be very bad for employees, particularly workers who rely on tips. Loughran said tipped workers have already faced setbacks such as early closures on nights like St. Patrick’s Day and New Years Eve which would ordinarily offer the potential for large earnings.

Loughran said he is trying to keep his staff working, knowing how hard it can be for workers to catch up after having to wait for an EI cheque to come through.

Other Sicamous eateries such as Brothers Pub and G&G Kitchen and Tap have also rushed to open up their patios as a way to stay up and running through the health order.

Patio season will also arrive sooner than expected in Salmon Arm with the province’s latest health restrictions putting a stop to indoor dining at restaurants.

The unexpected news prompted two downtown Salmon Arm restaurateurs to contact the city about pushing up the opening date for downtown sidewalk patios. The city’s sidewalk café extension program permits the removable structures between May 1 and Oct. 31.

Salmon Arm Mayor Harrison expressed support and hoped the weather allows for outdoor dining.

Hanoi 36 and the Shuswap Pie Company were the first downtown Salmon Arm businesses to take advantage of the city’s sidewalk café extension program in 2020. The owners of both were grateful for the outdoor seating option amid last year’s varying pandemic restrictions.

Read more: Downtown Salmon Arm sidewalk patios likely to return next spring

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Michael Vu, the owner of Hanoi 36, said he contacted the city right after Monday’s announcement.

Vu said he was disappointed that B.C. restaurant owners received little advanced notice from the province.

“I just got $500 worth of meat – that might not be much, but for a little business like myself… it’s just like wow, what are we going to do now?” Vu said with a laugh.

Barley Station Brew Pub’s Stu Bradford could empathize with having to deal with difficulties selling off large food orders from a restaurant with no indoor dining.

“That was certainly the feeling we all had. This is quite a blow to all of us,” said Bradford.

Despite the possibility the three-week stoppage on in-house dining could be extended, Bradford noted customers were already using the pub’s attached patio, and he was optimistic the community would continue to show its support.


lachlan@saobserver.net
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