Hundreds of business owners protest against B.C.'s new health restrictions

Hundreds of small business owners rallied at Vancouver City Hall Friday afternoon, protesting sweeping new health restrictions imposed by the province on Monday.

Many people were not wearing a mask or physical distancing, however they say they were not anti-mask protesters.

“They’re signing an execution order by this last (restriction),” said Chanel Kardos, owner and operator of Incognito Coffee.

Patio dining and take-out is all that’s allowed in B.C. until April 19, but at one Olympic Village eatery, people could still be seen dining indoors on Thursday. Gusto restaurant owner Federico Fuoco told CTV News Vancouver he does not intend to follow the temporary ban on indoor dining, and added he feels businesses were “blindsided” by the new rules.

“Where’s the science on this? Where’s the rationale? Meanwhile, liquor stores, Costco, Walmart, they get to open fully,” he said. “The discrepancy and the double standards are insidious, and I think businesses have had enough.”

The owner of Corduroy Restaurant in Kitsilano has also decided to defy public health orders.

“Our restaurant is going to open on Friday, after the protest, anytime after 4 p.m. We are going to do first-come, first-served. Saturday and Sunday we will be taking reservations,” she said in a video posted to social media

Protesters on Friday are asking the provincial government to cancel the three-week circuit breaker, saying their businesses will not survive it.

“Our biggest concern right now is that the shutdown is going to go further than three weeks,” said Marino Nanagnostopoulos, owner and operator of Simpatico Ristorante.

Data from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business shows in September 2020, there were 58,000 fewer active businesses in Canada compared to September 2019. The CFIB predicts up to 238,000 businesses could disappear before the pandemic is over.

“A lot of businesses did not survive the last 13 months. We made it this far and this restriction came out of nowhere,” said Kardos.

On Tuesday, Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart put forward an emergency proposal to help the struggling hospitality industry that includes waiving patio fees and cutting taxes.

Kardos says this response is “too little, too late.”

“It’s not about more government assistance,” she said. “It’s about getting our customers back so we can run our business the way we originally intended.”   

Over 100 small business owners standing together at #Vancouver City Hall. They say these new government mandates are unjustifiable and are banding together to save their livelihoods. #bcpoli @CTVVancouver pic.twitter.com/jkrMjFsdCy

— Mary Cranston (@mary_cranston) April 2, 2021