A Vancouver restaurant owner who was fined on New Year's Eve for violating COVID-19 orders is speaking out, saying businesses are struggling and police got the size of the party wrong.

Ron Cheng, who owns Cold Tea Restaurant on Granville Street, was handed a $2,300 fine for hosting a private party on Dec. 31. In a statement, Vancouver police said there were about 100 people at the closed-door party that night.

But Cheng says that's not the case.

"I'm not too sure where they got the hundred from," he told CTV News Vancouver.

Cheng says he's sorry for breaking the rules, but insists only 38 people were at the private function and that it was organized months in advance. 

"We were thrown a curveball with the whole 8 p.m. (liquor service) order," he said. "I had a really tough choice to make … we had the survival instinct kick in."

Cheng says the event the event started at 7 p.m. and that when police arrived, they ushered people out without doing a proper head count. 

"I do want to apologize for my actions, whether the report is 100 guests or 38 guests, at the end of the day it was wrong and I take full responsibility for that," he said. "It wasn't something that we took lightly and unfortunately we made the wrong decision."

Cheng says the pandemic has been a challenge for his business, especially with the last-minute change to liquor rules on New Year's Eve. He also says many businesses – including his – don't qualify for government support. 

"It's been pretty tough when all these regulations have been thrown our way," he said. 

"I'm not condoning what we did and I understand the consequences that are unfolding because of our actions but I also want people to understand our perspective and our point of view and what led to our decision."