May 16, 2020

Dear ABLE BC members and industry colleagues, 

I’ve got some good news and some frustrating news for you this morning.
As you know, yesterday WorkSafeBC released their reopening protocols and guidelines for restaurants, cafes, and pubs. View the protocols here

NEW: last night, the Provincial Health Officer released a new order that officially confirms May 19, 2020 as the reopening date for ‘food service establishments and liquor services’. That’s the good news.

The frustrating news is that the Public Health Officer is limiting operators to 50 per cent of your current occupancy.

This is obviously disappointing, given that the Provincial Health Officer’s Order is otherwise broadly consistent with yesterday’s WorkSafeBC guidelines.  

We are already working with our industry association colleagues on amending this capacity limit. We continue to believe that capacity limits should be based only on your ability to maintain physical distancing between customers, and not an arbitrary reduction in overall licensed capacity. I’ll keep you apprised of our progress in the days ahead.

View the Provincial Health Officer Order here.

The new order is addressed to all parties included in the March 20 PHO order:

  • Owners and operators of places at which food and/or drink is prepared and served
  • Owners and operators of places at which meals and drinks, including drinks containing liquor, are prepared and served
  • Owners and operators of retail liquor establishments
  • Holders of liquor licenses and liquor license endorsements that do not offer meal service at their premises

It repeals and replaces the PHO order made on March 20, 2020, but does not take effect until May 19, 2020.

Key Points for Liquor and Food Primaries:

These rules apply to:

  • Food primaries
  • Liquor primaries that offer meal service
  • Liquor primary club licenses
  • Liquor primary licenses attached to golf courses
  • Manufacturers with an onsite lounge endorsement or onsite tasting room endorsement

Note: if you are the holder of any other type of liquor primary license and only serve snacks or appetizers but not meal services, such as a nightclub, you must remain closed.

You can provide services, including standing and seated service, subject to the following: 

  • Patrons must be able to maintain a distance of 2 metres from one another (unless they are in the same party) and from staff.
  • If there are tables and chairs on your premises, patrons must be seated in a way that:
    • There are 2 metres between the patrons seated at the same tableunless they are in the same party.
    • There are 2 metres between the patrons seated at one table and the patrons seated at another table, unless they are in the same party.
  • There must be no more than 6 patrons seated at a table.
  • Patrons seated at a counter must be seated so that they can maintain a distance of 2 metres from other patrons, unless they are in the same party. The same rules apply if patrons are standing at a counter or table.
  • There must be no more than 50% of the usual capacity of patrons present at one time.
  • There must be no events held at the establishment that include more than 50 people. (We interpret this to mean events, parties, or other coordinated gatherings–and NOT an overall 50 person limit on capacity.)
  • If ‘practicable,’ you must retain contact information for one member of every party of patrons for 30 days in the event that there is a need for contact tracing on the part of the medical health officer.

Liquor Retail Establishments

The same rules listed above apply to owners and operators retail liquor establishments, including manufacturer’s with on-site store endorsement and liquor primaries with off-sales endorsement. See page 3 of the PHO order for further details.

In case you missed it, here are some key points from WorkSafeBC’s reopening protocols:

  • Phase Two of BC COVID-19 Go-Forward Management Strategy permits friends and family to get together in small groups of 2 to 6 people. Pubs, restaurants, and cafes must limit the number of people seated together to a maximum of 6.
  • Despite rumours, we have successfully ensured that establishments will not be limited to a specific occupancy. Instead, operators will need to calculate how many tables of six will fit into their space to determine their occupancy. You must allow for 2 meters between tables and factor in space for seats at the table. Booths which provide physical barriers between tables (i.e. Plexiglass barrier) will allow for more diners.
  • The maximum occupancy of the entire space can be determined using guidance provided in the WorkSafeBC COVID-19 Safety Plan. [Updated: based on the PHO order the occupancy cannot exceed 50% of your usual capacity.]
  • Operators must create their own COVID-19 Safety Plan. Use theWorkSafeBC template as an example. ABLE BC will also be providing a template in the next several days, based on these WorkSafeBC recommendations.
  • You must post the safety plan on your website and have it readily available in your establishment for review by workers, customers, and WorkSafeBC inspectors. Read more about your obligations in this new Provincial Health Officer order.

Please refer to the WorkSafeBC website for additional information on reopening protocols, including recommendations for:

  • General operations
  • Table service 
  • Cleaning and hygiene
  • Kitchen
  • Delivery

If you have any other questions or concerns, please contact or

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