For B.C.’s bars, two hours won’t break the bank

Opinions

Bars should listen to Bonnie Henry’s advice

bar graphic and COVID-19, bars to close two hours early
Graphic by Sie Douglas-Fish

On Sept. 8, Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, issued a new COVID-related restriction on B.C.’s nightlife. Venues are no longer allowed to serve alcohol after 10 p.m. unless they are offering food service as well. 

This newest change for pubs, bars, and restaurants has prompted backlash among some in the service industry. A pleading facebook post from one Vancouver venue owner says that the new order will be “extremely destructive” to smaller restaurants and bars, while Jeff Guignard, executive director of the Alliance of Beverage Licensees, believes that this new change will “take people out of our establishments and force people underground.”

As a worker in the service industry, who lost his job during the lockdown, I am fully in support of Bonnie Henry’s newest change. What many patrons don’t currently understand, as they drunkenly try to push the boundaries of restrictions and at times blatantly ignore them, is that bars and restaurants are a luxury, not a right. And while it may be a luxury patrons are willing to squander and put at risk, for me, it is my paycheque. 

The first day that bars and restaurants shut down was when I really felt the stress of COVID-19. It was St. Patrick’s Day, and though I’d gotten the day off, my friend happened to be working the bar. At 11 a.m., I got a phone call from him asking if I could pick him up because the pub had been shut down. I arrived as soon as I could and went in to speak with the manager, all three of us standing awkwardly, and newly, six feet apart. I could see the shock and fear in our manager’s face. His advice was to head home and apply for unemployment benefits as soon as possible.

When the pub finally opened up again three months later, I was ecstatic to be back. I’d missed my regulars, and though I was only scraping by on two shifts a week, I was happy to be making my own money again. 

The time after the pubs originally closed down was a blur of computer screens and government documents. (I now have my social insurance number thoroughly memorized.) It sucked. It sucked to be out of work, it sucked to be trapped at home, and it sucked to not be able to do something I love.

So now, as cases rise in B.C., people seem to have forgotten how terrible the time when restaurants and bars were closed was. These new restrictions are not an attack on small businesses, they are an attempt to keep them open. The new 10 p.m. foodless-drinking cut-off is the sweet spot between unmonitored drunken unruliness and another full-scale shut down. 

There is nothing wrong with people enjoying a few pints. For many people, restaurants and bars are a big part of their social lives. They go to their local, they see their friends and other regulars, and bond over a few drinks. For this reason alone, cutting out mingling between tables and table-hopping has been difficult enough. This gets even more difficult once customers have had a few drinks. This new 10 p.m. restriction will hopefully limit the drinking that causes these moments of drunken rule-breaking, without shutting down the pubs during happy hour and really doing damage to the businesses. The new restriction makes it easier for staff working at the pubs, like myself, to follow guidelines and reduce the spread of COVID-19. 

Contrary to Guignard’s claim that the new changes will “forc[e] people underground,” the new restrictions will not push massive groups out on the streets. Since reopening, bars and restaurants have maintained a strict no-more-than-six-per-table rule, so anybody seeking the thrill of large, late-night parties is sadly probably already doing it. This is a serious issue that needs to be handled, but must not be blamed on the service industry or the newest restrictions. 

We all have a part to play in reducing the spread of COVID-19.. So next time you want to go out for a drink with friends, please, support a local bar or restaurant, but do so safely and according to guidelines. 

Moving last call up by an hour or two isn’t going to lead to anarchy in the streets, and it’s not going to ruin businesses. It will help us keep our restaurants and bars open and keep all us who work in the service industry gainfully employed.