Province of BC’s Pandemic Policies Murdering Our Hospitality Industry

August 27, 2020

Mark MacDonald

A pair of conversations with restaurant owners makes it clear that the BC government’s COVID-19 total-society-quarantine strategy is inducing unsustainable bleeding of the bottom line of hospitality industry owners.

One eatery owner has had its maximum amount of seats limited to 50, from over 100. “If we fill all of our seats, we should be able to pay our rent,” was their response to my question of how business was going since reopening.

Another smaller, non-franchise restaurant – aka Mom and Pop breakfast, lunch and coffee shop – is allowed to host a maximum of 15 patrons at one time. I asked them how they were doing, and the owner replied: “We’re hanging on with our fingernails.”

Memo to the government: There is a reason why restaurants have a certain amount of seats. It’s called Math. They need those seats filled, and customers turned, during a day in order to keep the doors open, pay employees and, yes, make a profit.

Statistics have shown that 85 percent of restaurants fail – during normal business cycles. The BC government’s crowd size limits make operating a restaurant almost certainly impossible economically. There is no chance for survival with these limitations. . .the ones that still have their doors open are already clinging to life rafts.

Before someone claps back with the “don’t you care that some people may die of COVID-19?” argument – to which the obvious reply is a resounding YES! – does anybody care about families that have put everything they have into a restaurant who are being driven towards a financial cliff ?

Heavy-handed government is applauded by those who are not affected, or have proclaimed themselves government dependent for economic reasons. “They’re keeping us safe,” the masses cry. Well, they’re killing small business, and the livelihoods, dreams, and life savings of thousands of other British Columbians.

Remove the limits and let the marketplace decide if they want to frequent an establishment. Only then can restaurants possibly hope to survive.

An announcement that the BC Hockey League will hold an Island Cup tournament for its franchises in Victoria, Cowichan Valley, Nanaimo, Port Alberni and Powell River notes that the event, which will start in October and feature 12 round robin games, sounds noble.

But as a former part-owner in a junior hockey club (with Phil and Brenda Levesque with the Vancouver Island Hockey League’s Junior B Nanaimo Buccaneers), I can speak first-hand of junior hockey economics.

There is exactly NOBODY who owns a junior hockey club that is in it for the money. Junior B leagues on Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland are sustainable because the players pay to play, there are no overnight hotel stays and ferry rides, and crowds of around 200 are sufficient enough to pay the bills.

The BCHL is completely another story. In its quest to compete with the comparably affluent Western Hockey League, the lower-tier BCHL has allowed its expenses to push through the roof and become, in most of the cities in which it operates, money-losing entities. Some estimate that maybe 3 members of the 17-teams in the league last season made money last year. Losing the playoff gates was a crushing economic blow to teams that managed to stay close to break even by the regular season’s end.

Most amateur sports leagues are gate-driven, relying heavily on receipts from the ticket buying public. Take that away, and advertising/sponsorship remains. Except that will disappear as well. Why? Because advertisers are paying to have their names and messages read by many hundreds of people in the stands during games, not 50.

We haven’t even started talking about how junior hockey offers young men, full of testosterone and a tad rambunctious, an opportunity to better themselves in hopes of possible college scholarships – all while keeping them busy, and yes, out of trouble.

With crowds of 50, owners simply can’t afford to open the doors.

Quarantining an entire society – an unbelievably backwards strategy if there ever was one – is killing our way of life, hopes and dreams. It is resulting in hardship and yes, death, in other strange ways.

Let people live and choose as they see fit, as one would expect in democracy.

It’s time the government realizes hiding in the closet from COVID-19 isn’t a realistic, long-term solution. It needs to be met head-on. The vulnerable of our society need to be protected, and they should quarantine. Let the others live as they so choose.

Mark MacDonald is President of Communication Ink Media & Public Relations Ltd. and can be reached at

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