COVID is the culprit behind closures
It’s going to be at least a slow start to the holiday season for restaurant and bar owners in Halifax.
The province has closed bars and restaurants in all of HRM effective at the close of business Wednesday night.
“And it’s at least for the next two weeks, and we’ll monitor the need to go beyond that as necessary,” Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health, said at a news conference Tuesday.
“Bars and restaurants in the geographic area will close for in-person dining. Takeout, delivery is allowed, and we have made an exception for hotel restaurants, only for their guests, nobody else,” said Strang.
“Breweries, wineries and distilleries must close their tasting areas but they can stay open for retail sales.”
Also announced on Tuesday was a testing program for people who patronize or work in bars and restaurants that operate late at night.
The program calls for “anyone who works in a licensed establishment or went to a bar or restaurant in Halifax Regional Municipality after 10 p.m. in the last two weeks (to) book a COVID-19 test, even if they don't have symptoms,” said a news release.
Strang said most of the recent COVID cases have been among young people who’ve been out late.
"This broad testing initiative will help us detect new cases early, get people who test positive to self-isolate and stop the spread of the virus,” he said.
“This is one tool in our toolbox, but it does not diminish how important it is for people to tighten their social circles and activities and follow public health measures."
People tested through this process don’t have to self-isolate while they wait for test results as long as they don't have symptoms.
As restaurants in Halifax are closing, the association that represents them says things are much different in the rest of the region.
Luc Erjavec, Restaurant Canada’s vice-president for the Atlantic region, said Tuesday he had spent much of the previous 24 hours talking to members looking for guidance on the COVID issue.
“And they vary, they’re completely different,” he said.
“P.E.I. and Newfoundland are very different situations. They’re not having the crisis of consumer confidence that Halifax or Moncton or Saint John would have, just like some areas of New Brunswick or Yarmouth, Nova Scotia or Sydney, Nova Scotia are a completely different situation.”
Erjavec said he is not going to prejudge public health officials and experts in epidemiology, and he’ll follow their lead on what are the right measures to protect customers and restaurant staff.
“We’ve worked closely with them throughout this crisis and we’re going to follow their lead, whatever that may be,” Erjavec said.
“That being said, there have been many operators that have chosen to close down voluntarily (because of) their really terrible sales numbers – it’s collapsed the last week or two – and that fails to justify being open. Staff are concerned about coming to work, so they’re choosing to do so voluntarily and that’s up to the individual business. Every business is different and has different circumstances.”
Erjavec said he wants to remind the public that people don’t catch COVID from a restaurant.
“What’s happening is that someone who may or may not have the disease, is asymptomatic or not, is coming to a place where people gather and putting others at risk. So, it’s not that the restaurants or bars are doing anything wrong. We happen to be a place where people gather, not any different from a gym or a hardware store or a grocery store.”