B.C. nightlife venues want more financial support from the province after health officials this week paused the final phase of the province's restart plan.
Businesses such as nightclubs and karaoke bars were set to fully reopen Sept. 7 under Step 4 of the province's restart plan, a target based on cases and hospitalizations staying low.
But the industry's future is now in limbo after Health Minister Adrian Dix said the province would not move on to the next step amid a surge in cases and hospitalizations linked to the delta variant.
Step 4 would have eliminated virtually all public health restrictions, including indoor masking and physical distancing, a needed step for nightlife venues to fully operate.
"It's a business model based on violating social distance with strangers," said Jeff Guignard, executive director of the Alliance of Beverage Licensees of B.C.
"[With] karaoke, although you can keep plenty of distance with someone, you're singing at the top of your voice and potentially spreading [COVID-19]."
The province has yet to say when it will move to Step 4, and Guignard said some establishments are only looking to open after Halloween.
Guignard said he wants the government to provide more financial support and emergency business grants to nightclubs and other entertainment venues as they await full reopening.
A spokesperson with the province said the government has provided nearly $500 million in grants already to small businesses, and said federal and provincial programs are still accepting applications.
Vaccinations the 'silver bullet'
Step 3 of the province's plan allows nightclubs to open with limited capacity, but the owner of Vancouver's Red Room nightclub said many club managers have chosen not to since dance floors are forbidden.
"Our primary source of offering service is dancing and that has been the number one reason why we've been closed," said Dale McRitchie.
The Red Room has been shuttered since March 2020 and was set to open on Sept. 7 until the province's announcement this week. McRitchie said it's the longest closure in the club's 40-year tenure.
He said government grants have so far covered part of his rent and wages, but he's still digging out of a "serious" financial hole. He doesn't want to risk ordering perishables, such as beer, before a definitive reopen date is set.
Vaccinations are vital in order for that to happen, said Guignard, who called it the "silver bullet" for anyone wanting nightlife to return.
"The sooner we [...] increase our vaccination rates, the sooner we'll get back to things like karaoke and full nightclubs and dance floors."