The band Spank the Plank performs at White Hart Public House in Surrey on June 12. (File photo: Tom Zillich)

Dr. Henry’s closure order hits sour chord with Surrey Board of Trade, music industry

One Surrey pub vows to continue presenting live music, even with new volume restrictions

Surrey Board of Trade is calling on Dr. Bonnie Henry to revisit her order to close all nightclubs and banquet halls in B.C.

The Provincial Health Officer made the announcement Tuesday (Sept. 8) in an effort to curtail the spread of COVID-19.

The Surrey business organization said Henry did so “without any consultation or advanced warning,” with the order effective immediately.

Liquor sales in all bars, pubs, and restaurants must now stop at 10 p.m., with those venues required to close by 11 p.m. unless providing full meal services. Music, televisions and background sounds must not exceed conversational level.

Board of trade CEO Anita Huberman says the order should be revisited.

“The Surrey Board of Trade recognizes the important work of the Ministry of Health and the need to contain virus transmissions and continued contact tracing,” Huberman said in a news release Wednesday (Sept. 9).

“However, keeping businesses and the economy viable is also vital. Issuing a general and immediate, sector specific closures and operational restrictions, without consultation or government support “will result in permanent detrimental impacts to businesses, compromising our economy and jobs.”

Huberman calls on Henry to meet with the impacted industry sectors.

“We can’t simply close or curtail important sectors of our economy without full consultation and meaningful government support,” she added.

Huberman says most banquet halls have the space to operate at 50 per cent capacity, with physically distanced seating and no dancing. They are capped at a maximum of 50 people per function. “Banquet halls need a different health order arrangement to enable those business to survive,” Huberman said.

Huberman said members of the board have sounded off about the order.

Issues include the fairness of shutting down businesses after an already challenging spring and summer, and calls to continue allow the 50-person capacity rule without dancing.

“A function was to be held last night (Sept. 8) with all staffing, preparations and upfront costs already incurred (food and decorations), then the shut-down order was received with no advanced notice,” Huberman said. “Who was going to pay the expenses? After extensive calls to Fraser Health and others, they were given the clearance to complete that one event, after which they needed to shut down.”

Huberman, along with local musicians and venue operators, say the new volume restrictions will effectively put the live music industry out of business.

“While the intention of this new order is to reduce the potential transmission of the virus through yelling while music or televisions are playing, patrons that attend concerts are there to quietly watch and listen with no conversation. Changes to the order must be reconsidered,” Huberman said.

Meantime, Surrey’s White Hart Public House vows to continue presenting live music.

“All of our scheduled events will still be happening. We will adjust the sound. We aren’t canceling live shows at all,” operators of the pub posted to Facebook on Tuesday.

• RELATED STORY: Surrey pub brings bands back as Dr. Henry warns about how singing can spread COVID-19.

Elsewhere in Surrey, Donegal’s pub operator Daniel Cook says he isn’t surprised by Tuesday’s provincial order.

“The reason given is the same reason we chose to remain silent since we reopened (in June). When the volume is up, it is impossible for our staff to interact with our guests in a safe manner,” Cook wrote in a Facebook post Tuesday.

“For me, it wasn’t worth the risk to the health and safety of our staff and guests; we chose to keep our stage closed until we felt it safe to do so. Donegal’s remains committed to our live music, and it will return, but only when we can be sure we won’t be responsible for causing harm to all those who we care so much about, through our actions. We love you all, this entire situation sucks, but we will get through it, and get things rocking again.”

• RELATED STORY: Insurance ‘shock’ for Surrey pub operator who found a way to reopen after COVID shutdown.

Huberman said Surrey-area restaurants and bars, in general, “have done an excellent job in providing safe, compliant services and contributing in a meaningful way to the economy and general well being of citizens longing for some type of pleasant distraction during this pandemic.

“A general shutdown of banquet halls and restrictions to restaurants and bars is not right. Imposing significant penalties or closures to those that are not abiding by the rules would be fairer and more appropriate. For example, in Surrey, creating an Enforcement Team consisting of a Fraser Health Inspector, City Bylaw officer, WCB representative, and RCMP to monitor events and providing them with enforcement or closure authority, would be far more effective and enable those businesses that are following the rule to remain open.”



tom.zillich@surreynowleader.com

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