Prince Rupert bars face unique New Year’s during pandemic

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For bars in Prince Rupert, New Year’s Eve is usually a busy night and a time for celebration. However, due to the pandemic and provincial restrictions on drinking and gatherings, things are going to be looking quite different this year.

The Wheelhouse Brewing Company usually holds a New Year’s Eve event every year, but according to brewery co-owner James Witzke, tonight will be a quiet night for the brew pub.

“We’re not going to be doing anything this year. And it kills us because we’re used to having gatherings, we’re used to having people in here, we’re used to celebrating, and even having those sales from our beer cooler where people come in and buy product and take it home with them, we’re not expecting a big bump on that either.”

The brewery was planning to remain open until 11 p.m., but due to yesterday’s provincial health orders, which prohibit alcohol sales after 8 p.m., they will instead close at 8. It’s another financial hit for the brewery, which Witzke says has lost a lot of revenue over the past year.

Meanwhile, the Moby Dick Pub decided to keep their doors closed tonight after hearing about the provincial health order. Pub manager Doug Larsen said that New Year’s Eve is often a big night at the pub, and they’ll usually bring in a band or give away door prizes. But after yesterday’s order, he didn’t feel staying open was feasible.

Along with the financial impacts, Larsen also raised concerns that the order wouldn’t put an end to unsafe gatherings.

 “I don’t think it’s the right choice really. I think it’ll drive a lot of the parties to houses, where I don’t think there will be social distancing or masks or anything like that. It remains to be seen. It’s easier to police the bars in the city than it is to police the whole city.”

Another establishment that will be closed tonight is the Sunset Lounge and Grill. Lounge owner Paul Minhas said that the liquor sales ban, the risk of COVID and a desire for a break led them to decide to take the night off.