B.C. restaurants

B.C. restaurants can serve liquor later as banquet halls reopen

Effective Tuesday, June 15, British Columbia moved into Step 2 of its reopening process, meaning that B.C. restaurants can now serve liquor until midnight.

Indoor dining in B.C. restaurants reopened on May 25 after two months closed as Step 1 of the targeted relaunch plan began.

Under those terms, restaurants could serve liquor until 10 p.m. That has now been extended until midnight as the province progressed to Step 2 on June 15.

B.C. restaurants may now also hold events of up to 50 people, the same capacity that will be allowed at banquet halls as they are granted permission to reopen at limited capacity.

The criteria for moving into Step 2 was at least 65 per cent of the 18+ population vaccinated with a first dose, alongside declining case counts and COVID-19 hospitalizations. That vaccination goal was not only met but exceeded, with the mark hitting 75 per cent.

We had a meeting with Dr. (Bonnie) Henry and she was almost giggly and smiling. I think that’s how we’re all feeling after this long 16 months,” said Ian Tostenson with the B.C. Restaurant and Foodservices Association. “I didn’t realize that when … initially cut off at 10 p.m., how important it was to our industry. But when you think about it, who wants to leave a patio at 9:30 p.m. when it’s so nice outside or forego that sort of nice, relaxing dinner?”

Tostensen also highlighted how important it could be for restaurants to be able to start hosting events of up to 50 people again, noting that some restaurants in Downtown Victoria and Vancouver “rely heavily on those types of groups.”

Meanwhile, Jeff Guignard with the Alliance of Beverage Licensees (ABLE BC) says liquor sales between 10 p.m. and midnight can account for 30 per cent of business for some of these bars and restaurants. “That extra revenue that comes in will make a difference for a lot of people, giving them a chance to survive,” he said.

If B.C.’s impressive COVID-19 trajectory continues, Step 3 is slated to begin no sooner than July 1, and will see a significant lift in restrictions in the province. For restaurants, that will mean no restrictions on how many people can be seated at one table indoors or outdoors and no liquor restrictions.

“Pretty much July, we’re going to be back to pre-pandemic normal,” he said, noting coffee shops and other places that don’t have patio space will likely be the businesses that see the biggest difference in Step 3.