Nightclub and stand-alone banquet hall operators in B.C.'s Interior are disappointed and frustrated with the latest public health order to close down all such businesses after 429 new cases of COVID-19 were reported across the province over the long weekend.
Since the B.C. Centre for Disease Control began collecting data in March, Interior Health has recorded about seven per cent of total number of COVID-19 cases in the province so far in the pandemic. By comparison, Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health accounted for 86 per cent of 8,630 total cases as of Thursday.
David Johnson restarted his Blue Grotto nightclub in downtown Kamloops for only two days before he had to shut its doors again this week. That's after spending more than $5,000 on plexiglass barriers and personal protective equipment to make the 20-year-old club safe for customers.
Johnson says he's already had to pay rent for the venue for six months without bringing in any revenue and shouldn't suffer further because of outbreaks mainly in the Lower Mainland.
"This is a small market," said Johnson to CBC reporter Doug Herbert about the nightclub industry in the Interior. He hopes the provincial health authorities will consider this and change their order.
Prince George banquet hall owner Bharpur Nijjer says the order to close her 15-year-old family business is creating more than financial loss.
"I'm sick to my stomach," said the 60-year-old operator of northern Prince George's Hart Crown Banquet Hall to Sarah Penton, host of CBC's Radio West. "My brain is not in balance because I can't pay attention."
The banquet hall was back to operation in June following the province's guidelines. Nijjer said the venue was booked every weekend during the summer for wedding parties, but her overall revenue was reduced amid the pandemic because many customers cancelled their reservations and asked for refunds.
Nijjer doesn't know what the future looks like for her business. "Nobody can pay my bills," she said. "I still can survive ... a few more months. Then we don't have anything to survive."
Kamloops non-profit banquet hall Colombo Lodge also sees its income plummeting due to cancellations of wedding parties and corporate events, but its president Ross Spina remains optimistic. He said the lodge will stay connected to the local community by running a monthly take-home dinner program which gives profits to charity.
"And I have to brag, it does have one of the best dance floors in town," said Spina on CBC's Daybreak Kamloops to remind people that there will be life after the ban on banquet halls is lifted.