Vancouver restaurant owner defying public health order banning indoor dining

A Vancouver restaurant owner is defying Monday's provincial public health order that bans indoor dining for the next three weeks.

The measure is one of several new restrictions aimed at curbing a surge in COVID-19 cases in B.C. Patio dining and take-out is all that’s allowed 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.”

Fuoco said his restaurant is still following distancing and mask requirements, and has already reduced capacity from 40 seats to under 10, but will still allow people to eat indoors if they choose.

“I feel that as a mature person, you can make your own decision,” he said. “They’re free to come and dine. If they feel safe to come at dine at my place, they can. If not, no one’s forcing them.”

Fuoco said he is worried about his 30 employees, adding that closing indoor dining for three weeks would likely mean he would have to reduce staff. He said already lost another long-time business – Federico’s Supper Club on Commerical Drive – last year.

“Show me the proof that the outbreaks occurred from restaurants and that we are responsible,” he said. “They’re killing small business.”

Meg Hogg lives in the area, and said the sight of people dining inside in spite of the order left her fuming.

“Oh my God, I was irate. Just knowing how many people are getting COVID right now, how easy it is to transmit this virus,” she said. “It’s just so selfish.”

Hogg contacted the city with her concerns, and hopes to see consequences for the business and patrons choosing to flout the order.

“This is completely unacceptable,” she said. “It feels awful to report a local business who’s clearly struggling right now. They’re trying their best. But it can’t come at the cost of ignoring the provincial health orders.”

When asked about the possible repercussions and fines, Fuoco said he’s not backing down.

“Someone has to speak up. Someone has to speak the truth and shed light on this,” he said.

Fuoco told CTV News on Thursday night he was visited by health inspectors during the afternoon and was given a “closure order.” But Fuoco said he would not be complying, adding that it was “business as usual.”

In an email to CTV News, the city said enforcement staff “actively provide education about compliance with provincial health orders” at restaurants and other businesses, and will involve the police when dealing with “persistent offenders.” People are being asked to report any concerns via the VanConnect app or by contacting 311.