Indoor dining ban extension especially bad for restaurants without patios

On Thursday, the province is expected to announce an extension of the current three week ban on indoor dining in B.C.

The industry has been told to expect the ban will remain in place through the May long weekend, which is terrible news for restaurants that don’t have outdoor patios like Fable Diner in Vancouver.

“We can’t have a patio. We tried to apply to have a patio out front, but it is right now just take out only,” said the diner’s co-owner Ron Macgillivray.

While he’s managed to keep all his staff, it’s been tough to make ends meet. “We were down already over last year before this happened, now we’re down almost 50 per cent over what we were doing before. So again, not having the patio really hurts,” Macgillivray said.

Straight & Marrow on Powell street doesn’t have a patio either. And with a menu that doesn’t lend itself to take out, owner Chris Lam made the tough decision to close his doors temporarily and lay off his four employees.

“There wasn’t really a way I could figure out a way to keep everyone paid during a full shut down like this,” Lam said. “It’s just realistically just a math problem, how best we can lose the least amount of money during this period until everything kind of stabilizes.”

With Vancouver in the midst of an unseasonably warm sunny week, a patio could have made all the difference. “Honestly, I think some places are seeing a spike that have really nice patios,” said Lam.

Macgillivray agrees. “Everyone is telling people to go to patios, so it’s hard on sunny days because everyone’s going to patios as opposed to ordering take out. So it kind of effects us almost double, because we don’t have a patio and we’re losing the take out for patio business,” he said.

Restaurant owners say if the ban on indoor dining will be extended through the May long weekend, the provincial government “Circuit Breaker Grant” now being offered to help restaurants survive the shut down should be extended as well.

“If they offered one to ten thousand dollar grants for three weeks and now they’re closing down for another 5 weeks or 6 weeks, it should be at least that,“ said Lam. “If the government believes we needed that money to get through the these three weeks, if they’re closing down another 5 weeks, well we need even more.”

But Fable Diner isn’t counting on more government help.

“I mean it if happens, great. But you can’t plan on hoping something’s going to come. You have got to go out there and create business,” said Macgillivray.

And for restaurants without patios, that means going all in on take-out.