Vancouver closes restaurants to all but take-out and delivery

Previously, the provincial health officer had said that restaurants could stay open for table service as long as each customer was within about two metres of each other

Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart ordered the closure of restaurants | Jennifer Gauthier

What happened: The City of Vancouver has ordered that all restaurants shut down table service as of midnight tonight (Saturday March 21 morning) and that enforcement will start right away in order to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic that has so far killed eight British Columbians and infected 271. Worldwide, the total sits at 11,277 deaths and 258,419 infections, according to Johns Hopkins University Centre for Systems Science and Engineering.

Why this matters: It will force the closure of restaurants that are not able to provide take-out or delivery service while further limiting the activities that Vancouverites can take part in. 

Business owners, Mayor Kennedy Stewart said, will get a "60-day grace period on paying property tax." Council, he said, has directed its finance team to put that measure in place. Council needs to vote to put the measure in place. Property owners who have tax due on July 2 would get an extension until September 1, city manager Sadhu Johnson clarified.

The provincial government had already ordered all bars to close province-wide.

Mere hours after Stewart made his order, provincial health officer Bonnie Henry made the same order for all restaurants in B.C. Restaurants had previously been allowed to keep seating areas open as long as patrons were able to sit about two meters away from each other. 

"From today, my order is that restaurants must move to a take-out or delivery model only as a way to best protect us and ensure that we can maintain those distances [from one another,]" she said.

Stewart explained that he was first to order the closures in part because "we are one of the hardest hit regions of the country."

As of yesterday, 152 of Canada's 846 COVID-19 cases are in the Vancouver Coastal Health region. B.C. as a whole had 271 cases as of yesterday.

"I know that closing all food and beverage to everything but takeout or delivery will mean serious hardship for many people, workers and business owners, but we are acting now with one goal – keeping people safe." said Stewart.

"This new reality we are all experiencing will have significant economic impacts. That is why we are also looking at all options to provide immediate and medium-term local response and government advocacy. To all businesses and workers in Vancouver, we hear you and we will do everything we can to support you."

The Vancouver Park Board is also immediately closing its playgrounds across the city in an effort to minimize public gatherings and the potential of risk to the community. City by-law officers will not be enforcing parking regulations.

The City of Vancouver officially declared a local state of emergency as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic yesterday (March 19).

The declaration of a state of emergency allows city staff to take additional measures to ensure the city has necessary resources to maintain essential services, and meet the demands of other agencies, including Vancouver Coastal Health.