Some Vancouver restaurant owners are furious over the last-minute change to COVID-19 restrictions on New Year’s Eve, and they’re calling for an apology from provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.
All liquor service for the night was ordered to be cut off at 8 p.m. that night, and the decision to issue that order was announced on Dec. 30.
Meeru Dhalwala is the co-owner of Vij’s restaurant. She says there was no indication in the lead up New Year’s Eve that there would be changes to the restrictions, showing a lack of respect for the whole industry.
“It’s just not fair to say, ‘Hey, we trust you, you’re safe places to be open, but at the last minute we are going to clip your wings,’” Dhalwala said. “Respect us and tell us what we need to do in a timely fashion.”
She has written an open letter Henry that has now been signed by the owners of 13 Vancouver restaurants: The Acorn, The Arbor, Autostrada, Bao Bei, Bells and Whistles, Bishop’s, Bufala, Chambar, Kissa Tanto, Lucky Taco, My Shanti, Vij’s and Wildebeest.
In part, the letter reads, “There was no prior indication leading up to New Year’s Eve that our rules for service would change. Many restaurants lost their 8 p.m. bookings altogether — think of the inventory and wasted food — while others became inundated with last-minute take-out orders for which they weren’t prepared … On the last evening of a very difficult 2020, you created havoc for so many people who believed their New Year’s Eve was safely planned.”
The letter calls for both an apology and a commitment from public health officials that the industry will have more notice moving forward.
“We all want an apology, but an apology is only real if you say, ‘Hey, I’m sorry, let's move forward and create a dialogue of timely consultation,” Dhalwala said.
Another who signed the letter is Dustin Dockendorf, co-owner and president of Autostrada Hospitality. He said New Years’ Eve was the first time he saw customers revolt against the rules.
“Guests literally were saying, no I’m not going to let you clear my wine, I paid for it and this rule is B.S.,” he said. “It put us in a really challenging situation, we had no time to prepare for this sort of response from guests.”
Dhalwala said she sent the letter on Friday to the Ministry of Health, also the offices of Attorney-General David Eby, some local MLAs and city councillors. So far, she said, she has received no response.
CTV News Vancouver has also reached out to the ministry regarding the letter, but has not received a response.