Party planners ask B.C. government to allow safe reopening for weddings and other special events
Some event businesses say they're struggling to survive and are pleading with the B.C. government to allow them to reopen.
Judy Reeves, owner of Vancouver-based Edge Catering, says the wedding and events industry has been 'decimated' over the last two years. She's asking B.C. health officials to meet with the industry to come up with a plan to safely allow private events once again.
"It's hard for us as an industry to understand while Canucks games have been able to continue ... how can you say that's a less risky environment than say a cocktail reception?" said Reeves.
On Jan. 18, B.C. health officials announced gyms and fitness centres across the province could gradually start reopening as of Jan. 20, but the previous ban on indoor organized gatherings like wedding and funeral receptions was extended until Feb. 16.
Bars, nightclubs and lounges must remain closed and capacity limits of 50 per cent are still in place for theatres and stadiums.
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said last week she made the decision to extend those restrictions based on the current rate of transmission and hospitalizations which have reached a high point in the two-year-old pandemic due to the spread of the Omicron variant.
"Seated venues are very different from some places where you're either actively yelling, or shouting, or dancing or singing," said Henry at Tuesday's press conference.
On Wednesday, the province announced it was extending the COVID-19 Closure Relief Grant and doubling financial supports for eligible businesses that were ordered to remain closed, but Reeves says her company doesn't qualify because she's able to operate some aspects of her business.
Although the expiration of the order is only a few weeks away, businesses like Reeves' and Port Coquitlam-based Spotlight Events are worried it could be extended again without ample warning.
"We are begging for our survival. Please, give us any restrictions, we will work with them," said Spotlight Events' owner Paige Petriw.
She said her company would embrace the challenge of working with restrictions such as capacity limits, no dancing, mask-wearing policies and adding Plexiglass in between tables.
Both Petriw and Reeves said they have lost at least 90 per cent of their businesses over the course of the pandemic.
Reeves said she's worried if the shut down of the events industry continues past Feb. 16, it could drive celebrations to go underground.
"If we're concerned about safety protocols and containment, all it's doing is making people have celebrations on their own."