'I feel pretty gutted': Victoria businesses shocked by new COVID-19 restrictions

Many Victoria businesses say they were blindsided by the B.C. government’s announcement Monday of new restrictions on restaurants and gyms.

“I feel pretty gutted,” said Solomon Siegel, owner of Pagliacci’s restaurant in downtown Victoria. “I wasn’t expecting to be blasted back to this.”

Jason Ball, owner Victoria fitness studio BDHQ said, “It felt like we’re getting one step forward and now we’re taking one step back.”

Ball’s phone has been ringing off the hook since Monday, with members looking for clarification on the restrictions.

These new restrictions are hitting restaurants hard after an already tough year.

“I’m tired,” said Siegel. “I’ve cancelled our live music program, which is particularly painful to me.”

“There absolutely will be a reduction in hours for my staff,” he added.

“I think this is a $500-million hit to the industry over the next three weeks,” said Ian Tostenson, president and CEO of the British Columbia Restaurant and Food Services Association.

Tourism operators are not on the new restrictions list but they are still feeling the ripple effect.

“Immediately we saw cancellations,” said Ian MacPhee from whale watching tour company Prince of Whales.

On Tuesday, the BC Liberals criticized the NDP government for not offering more support to those businesses and workers affected.

“What the premier should have done yesterday was as he announced that there was going to be significant impacts, at the very same moment he should have announced enhanced packages of support for those businesses,” said Shirley Bond, interim Liberal leader.

Late Tuesday afternoon, the province signaled more help for those businesses was coming.

“There are supports available currently but the premier asked me to find new supports to ensure the businesses hardest hit have that,” said Ravi Kahlon, Minister of Jobs Economic Recovery and Innovation. “Our goal is to have something by late next week.”