Dine Out Vancouver Festival less busy than usual as Omicron keeps some diners away

A popular Vancouver food and drink festival is back this weekend, but it hasn't been generating as much business for local restaurants as usual amid the Omicron wave of COVID-19.

Chambar has been participating in the Dine Out Vancouver Festival for the past 16 years. Mike Wong, the restaurant's wine director, says reservations typically fill up fast, and there's usually a wait list.

This year, that's not the case.

"This is definitely, we've noticed, the slowest uptick in reservations for Dine Out," Wong told CTV News. "There's definitely less participation, we've noticed, compared to previous years."

Festival organizers have incorporated COVID-19 restrictions into their planning for this year's event, with many restaurants offering take-out versions of their fixed-price dine out menus for those not comfortable dining in a restaurant. 

Under current public health rules, restaurants are limited to a maximum of six people per table, with physical distance or barriers between tables and no mingling of guests between tables.

Those rules are scheduled to expire on Tuesday, but provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has said officials are reviewing the rules and will provide an update on any changes or extensions this week.

Wong said even though participation in the dine out festival has been lower this year, it's still going to have a positive impact on Chambar and other restaurants in the city.

"We haven't seen, obviously, the same amount of business as before, but it's definitely a good thing," he said. "We want to make sure that we do everything properly, do it right, so eventually there will be a day where we can fully open, go back to our original capacities and welcome as many people as possible."

The Dine Out Vancouver Festival runs from Jan. 14 to 31. More information on the participating restaurants and their offerings can be found on the festival website