One week prior to White Rock council turning the waterfront strip into a one-way route on June 7, council passed a motion (in a 5-2 vote) that acts as a trigger to return to two-way traffic if restaurants are allowed to return to full capacity.
It seems restaurants will be allowed to do just that come July 1.
However, Marine Drive will stay as a one-way until at least July 5, when council has a scheduled opportunity to discuss the topic.
On Tuesday, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry detailed Step 3 of the B.C.’s Restart Plan, which takes into effect on Canada Day.
Come July, the province will ease a number of restrictions including lifting the mandatory mask order as well as ending the pandemic state of emergency. When it comes to restaurants, bars and pubs, there will no longer be group limits for indoor and outdoor dining and restaurants can return to normal liquor service hours, however, there is to be no socializing between tables.
Businesses will no longer have to follow a COVID-19 Safety Plan, and will instead transition to a Communicable Disease Plan. Examples of communicable diseases include norovirus, seasonal influenza and COVID-19.
The Ministry of Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation confirmed to Peace Arch News restaurants will be allowed to operate at full capacity come July 1.
“Yes, restaurants and pubs can operate (at) full capacity if they wish. They decide what their capacity is on their own,” the ministry told PAN via email Tuesday.
A media representative for WorkSafeBC told PAN that when employers transition to a communicable disease prevention plan, the public health order “recommends” that employers maintain some of the protocols they’ve put in place as part of their COVID-19 Safety Plan “that do not impact business operations.”
Examples provided include barriers that are already erected and directional signage to reduce points of congestion.
The WorkSafeBC guidance on transitioning to communicable disease prevention plans, found here, includes details on physical distancing, barriers, masks and enhanced cleaning. However, the page notes that the information is provided for “reference only” and are not required to be maintained or implemented unless advised by public health.
— Helen Fathers (@HelenFathers) June 30, 2021
City chief administrative officer Guillermo Ferrero told PAN Wednesday that the city is waiting for clarification on what Step 3 means for the restaurant industry.
Either way, Ferrero said, council will have an opportunity to discuss the future of a one-way Marine Drive at the July 5 meeting.
“What I can tell you is that my intent is to have a discussion with council on Monday,” Ferrero said. “Hopefully by Monday, we will have a pretty good indication of where the industry will go and what kind of limitations they may have.”
Coun. Anthony Manning, who made the motion to return to a two-way street once restaurants were allowed to serve at full capacity, said the direction from the province is not clear.
“The motion was that when they were allowed to go back to full capacity, we would (return to a two-way),” Manning said. “But this direction from the province says ‘if they wish’ – it’s not clear cut. Which is unfortunate because I had hoped, as most of us did, the province would be very clear on guidelines.”
Manning said some waterfront restaurants are just starting to open their new patios, and may choose not to return to full indoor capacity.
He said council’s special meeting July 5 also serves as an opportunity for council to hear from East Beach merchants that have expressed concern about the one-way route. One of the biggest complaints seems to be that one-way has reduced foot traffic.
Coun. Helen Fathers, who told PAN she had not yet reviewed Henry’s Tuesday announcement, said if it’s confirmed restaurants can go back to full capacity, then Marine Drive will be returned to a two-way, as that was the motion.
“Unless a council member puts a reconsideration motion back on,” Fathers said. “I imagine the motion on the floor to remove the barricades will be discussed on Monday. That’s about the best I could give you.”