Three local restaurants, including Lake Cowichan’s Farm Table Inn, are calling for an end to COVID-19 restrictions in their businesses. Pictured are Farm Table Inn owners George Gates and Evelyn Koops. (Alec Wheeler photo)

Three local restaurants, including Lake Cowichan’s Farm Table Inn, are calling for an end to COVID-19 restrictions in their businesses. Pictured are Farm Table Inn owners George Gates and Evelyn Koops. (Alec Wheeler photo)

Cowichan Valley restaurants call for end of COVID-19 restrictions

Operators say industry has borne an unfair level of onus and responsibility during pandemic

All mandates and restrictions related to COVID-19 need to end, say three eateries in the Cowichan Valley.

The owners of Maple Bay’s Lion Rampant Scottish Pub, Duncan’s Small Block Brewery and Lake Cowichan’s Farm Table Inn put out a joint press release stating that the province has not shown how any of the restrictions help any longer.

“Many of the restaurants, pubs, breweries and lounges of the Cowichan Valley stand in solidarity in demanding an immediate end to the vaccine pass and all other mandates that affect the restaurant and hospitality industries,” the release said.


On Jan. 25, B.C.’s Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced the extension to June 30 of the province’s vaccine pass for entry into non-essential services, such as gyms, theatres, restaurants, pubs and lounges.

Bruce Findlay, owner of The Lion Rampant Scottish Pub, said the vaccine pass was instigated in September 2021 to encourage unvaccinated people to get vaccinated, under the auspices of public safety.

He said Henry shared at that time that non-essential services would be safer if they were only open to vaccinated people.

“Since the movement of the Omicron variant through our communities, and the fact that both vaccinated and unvaccinated people can contract, transmit and become ill with the variant, the pass no longer makes any sense.”

Aaron Scally, one of the owners of Small Block Brewery, said the business has suffered for almost two years under the restrictions placed on the industry.

He said his industry has borne an unfair level of onus and responsibility while corporate multinationals and fast-food chains have been able to continue business as normal.

“It appears the effort to utilize our industry segment as a pain point and locus of the coercion and exertion of pressure on the remaining unvaccinated populous has failed,” Scally said.

“Those who have chosen not to receive the vaccine continue in their distrust of the variable messaging of both provincial and federal governments.”


Scally said he doesn’t believe the continued use of vaccine passports is helping in the fight against COVID.

“It is now only an economic hindrance, an invasion into patrons’ personal medical records and a devastating obstruction to patronage at our establishments,” he said.

Farm Table Inn owner George Gates added that there is no further reason that any B.C. resident should have to prove they have received the vaccine.

“As Dr. Henry stated on Jan. 21, we need to learn to live with COVID-19 like any other flu-like virus,” he said.

A statement from B.C.’s Ministry of Health said the government knows how difficult the last two years have been on businesses and is committed to helping them.

The statement said the ministry and province’s Public Health Office doesn’t make these decisions lightly and have said throughout the pandemic that temporarily having health and safety measures in place in businesses is a measure to help protect B.C.’s hospitals from being overwhelmed, keep people safe and to slow the sudden and rapid spread of the virus.

Last week, hospitalizations for people with COVID-19 reached record high numbers, as Omicron continues to spread in the province.

The statement said throughout the pandemic, the province has worked closely with employers and WorkSafeBC to support businesses with their COVID-19 safety plans, communicable disease plans, and other layers of protection to ensure the health and safety of their employees.

“Restaurants can continue to operate at full capacity because there are safety measures in place; guests must remain at their table and masks must be worn when not seated,” the ministry said. “This goes back to what took us through the last few waves of this pandemic. When you go with your group of people to the restaurant, you stay at the table together, and there is no mingling and standing and mixing of tables.”

“Our decisions are guided by science, prudence and care, and our commitment to stopping the spread of COVID-19,” the ministry said.

“The number of cases, immunizations rates, hospitalizations, intensive care unit admissions, deaths and outbreaks and clusters are some of the metrics that are considered in decision making. Our plan is guided by the best advice of public health professionals. The focus will always be on preventing serious consequences and reducing transmission and keeping people safe, while minimizing social disruption. The gradual lifting of orders and restrictions will only happen as it is safe to do so. We will continue to monitor what is happening around the province and will adjust our approach as needed as we get through this together.”


The ministry said that since the beginning of the pandemic, the province has provided more than $500 million in supports to help nearly 30,000 businesses, and with these COVID-19 related supports in place, B.C. continues to provide some of the highest supports for people and businesses per capita in Canada.

“We also recently launched the COVID-19 Closure Relief Grant, which provides up to $20,000 for businesses that were forced to fully close as a result of public health measures announced to combat the Omicron wave in late 2021 and early 2022,” the ministry said.

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