Patio season will arrive sooner than expected in Salmon Arm this spring as restaurants cope with the province’s latest health restrictions.
On Monday, March 29, the B.C. government announced that indoor dining and liquor sales, indoor adult group fitness and indoor religious services would be prohibited over the next three weeks. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry explained this measure was in response to a spike in COVID-19 cases.
While indoor dining was put on hold, outdoor restaurant patio seating was still permitted.
The unexpected news prompted two downtown Salmon Arm restaurateurs to contact the city about pushing up the opening date for downtown sidewalk patios. The city’s sidewalk café extension program permits the removable structures between May 1 and Oct. 31.
Mayor Alan Harrison was supportive of amending the timeline to accommodate the earlier opening of downtown business’ patios. First, he said the city needed to get the streets swept, which would be done as soon as possible.
“I know that council is very supportive of patios, both for the vibe they create and for the safe seating they provide for patrons,” said Harrison.
Hanoi 36 and the Shuswap Pie Company were the first downtown Salmon Arm businesses to take advantage of the city’s sidewalk café extension program in 2020. The owners of both were grateful for the outdoor seating option amid last year’s varying pandemic restrictions.
Michael Vu, the owner of Hanoi 36, said he contacted the city right after Monday’s announcement.
“If we need to clean outside on the street, we’ll do it just to get the patio back out. Because it’s hurting us right now,” commented Vu, who was upset with how B.C. restaurant owners received little advanced notice from the province.
“I just got $500 worth of meat – that might not be much, but for a little business like myself… it’s just like wow, what are we going to do now?” Vu said with a laugh.
Barley Station Brew Pub’s Stu Bradford could empathize.
“This is quite a blow to all of us. Everybody is ramping up, we’ve got big food orders coming in, and the whole no notice thing again, that’s kind of annoying,” said Bradford who, despite the upset, was able to maintain a positive tone.
“That’s on the outside – on the inside I’m pretty torn up,” said Bradford who was dismayed to see what appeared to be a return to “normal” suddenly diminish.
Despite the possibility the three-week stoppage on in-house dining could be extended, Bradford noted customers were already using the pub’s attached patio, and he was optimistic the community would continue to show its support. Vu and Tovah Shantz at the Shuswap Pie Company also had a positive outlook for the summer ahead.
“We have wholesale, we sell to grocery stores, we have a lot of other stuff other than dine in. We’re lucky that way,” said Shantz, keen to get her sidewalk patio up and running again.
“We’re going to manage,” said Vu. “We’ve been through it before… We don’t know how business is going to flow at this point but we’re going to try to keep everyone on staff and make sure no one loses their jobs or gets their hours cut down.”
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