Pandemic restrictions in B.C. have left some small business owners with the difficult decision of carrying on with little or no revenue – or closing down altogether.
For a unique bar in Vancouver, an exception to the rules may be the only way to survive.
"I’ll probably lucky to do five to 10 per cent of what I was doing pre-COVID,” said Regan Truong, who owns Back and Forth Bar in Gastown.
For months, as one health order after another forced fewer tables and limited occupancy, there was one thing keeping the business afloat.
"80 to 90 per cent of people are coming to have a few drinks and to play ping pong,” Truong said.
Last weekend, an officer checking for COVID-19 compliance told Truong the game could no longer be played at his bar. Immediately, it meant turning away the little pandemic business he had.
“We tell them we can't allow ping-pong and they just walk out.” Truong said. "It could be the final nail in the coffin of my business."
In September, an order from provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry forced bars to stop liquor sales by 10 p.m. on top of previous restrictions on seating capacity and physical distancing.
“We know the risk is greatest at night clubs and bars,” Henry said.
Part of “The Order on Food and Liquor Premises” states after being served, patrons must be seated and must stay in their seats.
Jeff Guignard with the Alliance of Beverage Licensees said the policy makes sense "to stop people from hopping from table to table," but he argues some activities should be exempt.
“Something like pool, ping-pong or darts is extremely easy to social distance,” he said.
“If we can show that we will do it safely, with appropriate COVID protocols in place like maintaining social distance and sanitization procedures, they should be allowed to operate.”
Guignard added with all the restrictions in place, some bars are likely going to close unless they get significant government supports.
Truong is willing to spend thousands equipping his bar with glass dividers between ping-pong tables if it means he can let customers play again.
"I can even put tape floor markings of where you need to be when you're playing ping pong," he added.
In a statement, the province said it needs to focus on stopping COVID-19 from spreading.
“Bars and restaurants have been doing a great job of keeping things under control, but that’s harder to do when people are not seated at a specific location. We know that when alcohol is involved, and there’s mixing of unconnected social groups going on, transmission has been happening,” said a spokesperson for the Ministry of Health.