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Nanaimo business community challenged by latest round of COVID restrictions

Public health orders will be ‘brutal’ for bars, says Nanaimo chamber of commerce
Jonah O’Connor, of Headstock Entertainment, adds ambience to Commercial Street for people who ventured out to do some last-minute Christmas shopping or patronize downtown coffee shops and restaurants Thursday, Dec. 23. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)

Nanaimo’s chamber of commerce is frustrated with amended COVID-19 guidelines recently announced by the province.

The B.C. government expanded restrictions this week, prohibiting indoor organized social events and gatherings, shuttering fitness facilities, dance studios, bars and nightclubs, reducing seating capacity at arenas and theatres to 50 per cent and limiting restaurants, cafés and pubs to six people per table. The restrictions will remain in effect until at least Jan. 18.

Kim Smythe, Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce CEO, said some business owners are vexed by the rules, which they see as illogical.

“It’s really challenging … You can’t have over six at a table in a restaurant, but can have 6,000 at a hockey game? That’s where people are asking these questions,” said Smythe. “At face value, it just doesn’t look like it makes any sense and that’s, I think, where you’re getting people who are super frustrated.”

The holiday season used to be a boon for bars and while restrictions will be “terrible,” Smythe said the 11 days’ notice is better than the last-minute restrictions imposed right before New Year’s a year ago.

“That’ll prevent them from spending money on supplies that they don’t need, which is going to be different than last year,” said Smythe. “Of course, they’re going to have to recalculate their budgets, everything based on the fact that one of the biggest nights of the year is taken away from them. I think for bars, it’s going to be brutal.”

B.C.’s Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon announced Thursday, Dec. 23, that businesses impacted by the latest COVID-19 public health orders will be able to apply for a one-time relief grant up to $10,000, calculated based on number of employees.

“We’re all exhausted by COVID-19, but unfortunately COVID-19 is not done with us…” said Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon. “I encourage everyone in B.C. to support impacted local businesses, including businesses that have been forced to close by buying gift cards and memberships for future use.”

RELATED: B.C. announces $1K-$10K grants for businesses impacted by latest COVID restrictions

Smythe said the Government of Canada’s emergency wage subsidy was beneficial to businesses earlier in the pandemic and he is hoping that is “quickly and easily” reintroduced for the short-term.

“I know that [CEWS] was most helpful for a lot of businesses, as well as the non-repayable loans, where they gave $40,000, and $20,000, but you could keep $10,000 of each of those, and use the balance of the money to support you and keep your business thriving, and then pay that back. And they gave it quite a big window there too,” said Smythe.

The government has introduced, relaxed and re-introduced rules during the pandemic. Smythe said he understands the plight of business owners.

“Every time we get a new series of restrictions or guidelines, or mandates, it just drives everybody crazy and everybody gets frustrated,” said Smythe. “Whether you’re trying to run a business or you’re a customer, it’s like, ‘Am I allowed to go there now?’ or ‘Am I not allowed to go there?’ Confusion reigns supreme.”

RELATED: Omicron surge sees bars, gyms closed, indoor organized gathering ban

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Karl Yu

About the Author: Karl Yu

After interning at Vancouver Metro free daily newspaper, I joined Black Press in 2010.
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