Eugene Kwon of Gratia Bakery and Cafe says the business will be relying on take out orders and a small patio. (Neil Corbett/The News)

Maple Ridge restaurants forced to turn away indoor diners

New public health orders tough on small businesses, say managers

On Tuesday morning, restaurants in Maple Ridge began what could be a tough three weeks, with no diners allowed inside.

Customers at Gratia Bakery and Cafe were met with seats turned up onto tables. They are still selling take-out orders, but without those eight tables the popular cafe is quiet.

“It’s definitely a lot slower than it would be normally,” said Eugene Kwon, who manages the family owned business.

It was the first day of new public health orders that provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced on Monday, and one of the measures is to stop indoor dining and liquor sales at restaurants and pubs. People dining on patios can do so only with members of their immediate household or “core bubble.”

READ ALSO: B.C. stops indoor dining, fitness, religious service due to COVID-19 spike

The three-week suspension started at midnight on March 29, and will run until April 19.

Kwon’s family started the popular Dewdney Trunk Road business five years ago, and were planning a second location when COVID-19 hit. It has been a tough year, as many customers stayed away early in the pandemic. But in recent days, business was getting close to returning to normal.

So the new restrictions are frustrating.

He said Gratia should still have strong take-out business, and there is a small patio off the back door which can seat four tables worth of customers, and it will be ready for fair weather days.

“It will definitely be difficult,” he said. “We have a really strong core of regulars, but it will be hard.”

“Hopefully after three weeks, it’ll get back to normal.”

Patrons showed up for breakfast at Bobby Sox ’50s diner, to be met with news that service is either take-out or on the patio. Unfortunately, some left without supporting the business.

Joanne Timms, who has managed the iconic restaurant on the Lougheed Highway for 16 years, was praying for some sunny weather to make patio dining more appealing.

“It’s a little cold yet,” she said.

Her restaurant has glass partitions between tables that have allowed ample seating indoors through the pandemic, but has just three tables on the patio. They do take-out business with a delivery service, but she anticipates the kitchen will be slower for the next three weeks.

“I figured this was going to happen, because the numbers got so high,” said Timms.

Premier John Horgan said Monday that case counts have been “unacceptably high” in the past 10 days.

READ ALSO: B.C. reports more than 2,500 COVID cases over the weekend as variants continue to spread

She said Bobby Sox has been fortunate to have no cases of COVID-19 among its staff, and she hasn’t learned of any among customers.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) is calling for greater small business supports, saying the restrictions will negatively impact local jobs, economic activity, and may lead business owners who are already struggling to close shop.

“The restaurant industry has been particularly hard hit by the pandemic,” said spokesperson Muriel Protzer. “For over a year now, they have operated at limited capacity. This has restricted their ability to bring back employees and pay fixed costs like rent.”

According to CFIB data, only 18 per cent of hospitality businesses are at normal staffing levels, and 88 per cent have reduced revenues. The federation asked government for tax breaks for these businesses, and the ability to defer tax payments.

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Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News