Bar and restaurant owners say they’re incredibly frustrated after B.C’s provincial health officer passed a last minute order to stop the sale of alcohol after 8 p.m. on New Year’s Eve.

Dr. Bonnie Henry issued the order just after 3 p.m. Wednesday which imposed a temporary ban on booze sales from 8 p.m. on Dec. 31 until 9 a.m. on Jan. 1.

The last minute decision caught bars and restaurants off guard. Justin Ault owner of the sushi restaurant Hapa Iazayaka Yaletown, he says he got an email about the order and “almost fell off my chair.”

Ault says he had to call everyone who had made a reservation after 7 p.m. to explain the new rules, with most cancelling their bookings.

“Basically our whole second half of the evening, I’d say we’ve lost about 40 per cent of our reservations if not more,” he said.

Ian Tostenson is president of the B.C. Restaurant and Food Services Association. He says businesses are set to lose tens of thousands of dollars in “(lost) tips and wages, alcohol they’ve purchased, party favours they’ve purchased and extra food they’ve purchased.”

“We’re seeing about 25-40 per cent cancellation right now in reservations,” Tostenson said.

Dr. Henry reaffirmed her position during Thursday’s COVID-19 news conference saying that it becomes harder to enforce COVID-19 restrictions when people are intoxicated.

Both Tostenson and Auld say they understand the doctor’s reasoning, but say they should have had more notice.

“The problem here has really been the lack of notice and the amount of money that’s been spent getting ready for New Year’s Eve and then having to pull it back,” Tostenson said. “Had we done this with Dr. Henry three weeks ago we could have delivered a plan that was safe, effective and allowed people to go have a little bit of fun with their household members.”

Dr. Henry responded to criticism of the timing during Thursday's briefing. 

“We've been obviously signalling for some time about the issues around new years eve and around the holiday season so i don’t think this came out of the blue in that respect,” she told reporters.

Simon Fallick, co-owner of The American, a bar on Main street says the 11th hour change is “incredibly frustrating” and he had to work fast to pivot plans for the bar to celebrate New Year’s on Newfoundland time.

“We’re under the auspice that at 7:30 there’s a ball drop in the furthest point in eastern canada so we’re going to link up with them and do an east coast meets west coast,” Fallick said.