Vancouver restaurant owner now complying with indoor dining ban, but still wants it retracted

A restaurant owner in Vancouver’s Olympic Village is calling on the province to lift the restriction on indoor dining.

Federico Fuoco, the owner of Gusto restaurant, says the province’s recent “circuit breaker” restrictions unfairly target the restaurant industry.

The province-wide order went into effect on March 30. Indoor religious services, group fitness classes, and restaurant dining are on hold until April 19 at the earliest.

“If this was a blanket policy, I could understand it,” Fuoco said. “If it covered Walmart, Costco, liquor stores, etc., I can understand. But, it’s targeting the restaurants unfairly.”

Initially, Fuoco did not comply with the new restrictions, and continued serving patrons indoors at Gusto. That led to Vancouver Coastal Health ordering the restaurant to be shut down immediately, for failing to adhere to provincial health orders.

However, Fuoco has kept the doors open, telling CTV News Vancouver on Saturday he has decided to abide by the restrictions, and will only serve customers on his restaurant’s patio.

“I care about the safety of the public,” he said. “This is why I’ve decided to comply with the order.”

Meanwhile, another Vancouver eatery appears to be breaking the rules. In video posted to social media, Corduroy Restaurant in Kitsilano appeared to be serving customers indoors on Friday evening.

Earlier that day, the restaurant’s owner, Rebecca Matthews, spoke at a rally to save small business.

“Small businesses have been blindsided multiple times,” she said to demonstrators outside Vancouver City Hall. “It’s thousands of dollars out the window each time they’ve closed us, and thousands of dollars to reopen. Thousands of dollars in lost wages. Has Bonnie (Henry) missed a paycheque this year?”

“We are officially open, as of four o’clock today,” she added. “So, come down and have some food inside.”

Restaurants in violation of the current public health orders can be fined $2,300 for each day they are in non-compliance. B.C.’s Public Safety Minister and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth says the penalties can get even tougher.

“They could lose their liquor licence, they could lose their business licence, they could face additional charges that may well be under the criminal code, which could result in one year in jail and a $10,000 fine,” said Farnworth.

Fuoco said he’s been in contact with Vancouver Coastal Health since being ordered to shut down, but would not provide details of those conversations, citing legal concerns. He did say, however, that he feels the province is using the restaurant industry as a scapegoat for rising COVID-19 case counts.

“There’s no science, no facts, no proof that they can show us – that we’ve been shown anyway – that this has been caused by restaurants,” he said.

On Saturday afternoon, Gusto was full of customers lining up to order Italian food and drinks to go. Fuoco says he was forced to closed down his other restaurant, Federico’s Supper Club, due to COVID-19 constraints. He’s determined to keep Gusto from suffering the same fate.

“We have a lot of community support,” he said. “I thank the community. They understand how unfairly targeted restaurants have been, and how hard it is, when things are normal, to survive in the restaurant business.”