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B.C. restaurants advised they 'are able to open' May 25 for indoor dining

Dr. Henry and Premier Horgan would not address restaurants re-opening during Thursday's briefing, but an industry group has offered firm guidance.
A public health order restricting indoor dining is set to lift at midnight on May 25, but B.C.'s leaders and health officials did not specify what that means for restaurants come Tuesday. Photo: Getty Images

UPDATE May 25: Under the new B.C. Restart Plan, as of May 25 we are in Step 1 and restaurants can resume offering indoor dining. Read more about what is on deck for restaurants under the province's reopening plan. 

British Columbia's current slate of so-called "circuit breaker" restrictions is set to expire at 11:59 p.m. on Monday, May 24, including a ban imposed late in March on indoor dining at all restaurants in the province. 

On Friday (May 21), BC Restaurant and Foodservices Association CEO and President Ian Tostenson told members of the industry that restaurants "are able to open on Tuesday, May 25 for indoor dining."

Tostenson was speaking via the BCRFA industry newsletter. He goes on to advise restaurant owners, operators, and employees to "go back to the protocols and restrictions that were in place March 29, 2021" if they open their doors to customers on Tuesday.

However, while the specific public health order pertaining to indoor dining was only put into place through the end of the Victoria Day holiday, during a media briefing on Thursday, May 20, Premier John Horgan and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry would not specifically address what Tuesday - and beyond - might look like for businesses and individuals impacted by the current restrictions.

Specifically, Horgan and Henry were reminded during the press Q&A session Thursday that the BCRFA and other industry stakeholders had been urging B.C. health officials and government to offer restaurant owners more notice regarding restrictions. 

Previous communications from the BCRFA to members indicated there was some consultation taking place in early May. 

"BCRFA and our industry colleagues have had conversations with our Provincial Health Office in regards to business re-opening as of May 25th when the current order expires," reads the BCRFA May 6 Industry Updates newsletter. "We have expressed the need for restaurants to know in advance the direction the province will be taking due to the need to bring back staff and food ordering etc."

Henry, and others, had previously been careful not to say explicitly that the province's health orders would not be extended. She said on May 17 that "nothing is going to be back to 100%. On Tuesday, it's not going to be a light switch. It is going to be a dimmer switch."

During Thursday's briefing, Horgan said specifically the "circuit breaker will be over" on Tuesday and a new roadmap for B.C. will be laid out in the daily briefing the afternoon of May 25.

Horgan also declined at that time to discuss specific industries, like restaurants and food services, citing a need to address all affected sectors at the same time for fairness.

Tuesday's briefing is expected to yield for B.C.'s restaurants - many of which may choose to open up for indoor customers earlier that day, following BCRFA guidance - details in the "restart British Columbia 2.0 plan" and clarity on what the end of the "circuit breaker" means for them. 

With files from Glen Korstrom and Elana Shepert