After a little over a week of new liquor restrictions issued by the government of British Columbia, Kelowna watering holes are beginning to feel the effects.
On Sept. 8, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry ordered a ban on alcohol sales in restaurants, bars and pubs after 10 p.m., as well as requiring them to close by 11 p.m. if the kitchen doesn’t remain open. In addition, Henry ordered nightclubs and stand-alone banquet halls to shut down completely.
With local bars and restaurants trying to get back on their feet after having to close their doors for several months due to COVID-19, the new restrictions have knocked many establishments back down, losing out on primetime hours after 10 p.m.
Kalli Dunham, manager of Craft Beer Market in downtown Kelowna said the party hasn’t stopped at 10 p.m., noting many of her customers are flocking to house parties or even partying in the streets after closing time.
“A lot of our sales are post 10 p.m… we’re seeing a massive decrease in sales,” said Dunham.
“We still think that there’s the same number of people that are trying to break the rules and still trying to table hop between the hour of 7 to 10 p.m., so we don’t really see (how the new restrictions) are going to make a difference. We’re finding that people are just parting in the streets so we’re then trying to police outside.”
Kelly O’Bryan’s Neighbourhood Restaurant, located directly across the street from Craft, has seen a similar trend. Cassidy Barron, manager of Kelly O’Bryans said she hasn’t seen a shift in the mentality stating people are going to party regardless of the restrictions, and the new restrictions are taking away from the economy.
”It’s been business as usual, but from talking with customers it feels like people are doing house parties now, which kinda sucks,” said Barron.
“They’ve taken the liquor away from restaurants and they’re just planning on drinking at house parties, which can get bigger and that sucks to see. In my opinion, I think it was silly to take (late-night liquor sales) away from the restaurants.”
Henry said the closures were necessary after it became clear that banquet halls and nightclubs became “high-risk places” that were unable to bring in enough safety measures to keep guests safe.
“It’s going to be a challenging time for those businesses,” Henry acknowledged.
“These restrictions will take away that late-night temptation people have, when we know there’s been mixing (of social groups) going on and transmission is happening in these venues.”
As to what qualifies as a nightclub, she said it would be those establishments whose “sole purpose is entertainment and liquor service.”
Henry said that she is not currently considering shutting down dine-in service at bars and restaurants altogether at the moment.
“I use orders as a last resort…we do it for things where we know it will make a difference,” Henry said.