A Vancouver restaurateur who vowed to defy a provincial ban on indoor dining now says he’ll comply, while a second was ordered to close after promising to stay open all weekend.
Gusto restaurant Federico Fuoco said Saturday that he would “comply with the latest order.”
“Because I want everyone to feel safe, and it is about safety. I understand that,” Fuoco told Global News.
On Friday, Fuoco had pledged to open his restaurant to indoor dining in violation of the province’s three-week “circuit breaker” restrictions.
Fuoco’s defiance led to a Vancouver Coastal Health closure order issued April 1 and on Saturday, Gusto was open again albeit for outdoor dining only. Vancouver Coastal Health did clarify when asked if the restaurant was violating the order by being open.
“We were blindsided,” Fuoco said Saturday, arguing restaurants were given no warning and left holding large amounts of perishable product.
Vancouver restaurant owner defies COVID-19 orders
“This could be the final nail in the coffin for restaurants, someone has to speak up. We don’t want to lose our employees, they have families to feed. Restaurants that have spent thousands of dollars on plexiglass dividers.”
Gusto is not the only Vancouver restaurant raising eyebrows with its defiance.
Corduroy restaurant on Cornwall Avenue in Vancouver also took aim at the restrictions and opened its doors following a “save small business” rally at Vancouver City Hall on Friday.
Owner Rebecca Matthews told Global News Saturday the eatery remained open and would stay that way as long as it could.
But Vancouver police confirmed Saturday evening that its liquor coordinator and provincial health officers had attended, and that the PHOs had issued a full closure.
As of Saturday night, the restaurant was still open and serving customers inside.
“I don’t believe it’s OK to pick and choose certain industries to shut down. A lot of people say it’s just three weeks but I don’t believe that’s true, I think they’re going to keep moving the goalposts like they have all year,” she said.
Matthews said opening and closing the restaurant cost her thousands of dollars in lost product and that she relied on the business to feed her family.
“We need to take a stand. Enough is enough. We need to be able to live and support our families. We’ve been doing it safely for the last little while,” she said.
“Driving down to work today there’s patios that are packed, so how is that different than people sitting at a table inside?”
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Health experts are in wide agreement that the virus spreads most effectively in indoor spaces at close quarters.
On Friday, Matthews spoke at a “save small business” anti restriction rally, where she questioned the accuracy of COVID-19 tests and called for a reopening of businesses.
Following the event, protesters packed the restaurant to capacity, with one live-streamed video showing attendees joining in a chant of “Freedom! Freedom!” while guests circulated without masks on.
Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth described flouting the restrictions as “disgraceful.”
“It’s flying in the face of what most British Columbians are doing, what nearly all restaurants in this province are doing, which is abiding by health orders. They’re there to protect people, they’re there to get this pandemic under control and the numbers down,” he said.
“So to sort of thumb your nose because you think you’re special or you’re entitled to something or that the rules don’t apply to you, it’s just irresponsible.”
Farnworth said a business that stayed open was at risk of a $2,300 fine, while anyone in attendance could be fined $575. Liquor and business licences could also be in jeopardy he said.
On Saturday, the province revealed it had recorded more than 1,000 new cases in each of the last two days.
UBC mathematical biologist Sally Otto said she believes the surging numbers were being driven by the more contagious COVDI-19 variants of concern, which she estimated now account for half of all new cases.
“That means we have to be even more conscious, wear masks outdoors, wear a double masking,” Otto said.
“If you’re in prolonged contact, make sure you’re distant. Really, reducing the amount of shopping or anything you do to what is needed at this point in time.”
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