B.C. caterers fear they’ll be decimated by another COVID-19 wedding season


B.C.’s independent caterers are sounding the alarm, warning another summer without weddings due to COVID-19 restrictions could sound the death knell for many operators.

“Summer is wedding season,” Joy Road catering owner Brett Turner told Global News.

“To lose 75 to 90 per cent of your wedding business, it’s detrimental — our business was down a little over 95 per cent in sales last year … it basically wipes out everything you have for an entire season and we’re looking at that for a second year in a row.”

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Under current B.C. COVID-19 restrictions, weddings are permitted with a maximum of 10 people and no receptions before or afterward.

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In January, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said weddings would be allowed this summer, but would have to be small and have no international guests, warning “we’ll be in a similar place” to last summer.

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That’s alarmed operators like Turner, who said many couples who cancelled events last year rebooked them for this summer — only to begin cancelling again.

Of 52 weddings booked for this summer, Joy Road has seen 25 cancel already, and Turner said they’re still getting about one to three cancellations a day.

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Caterers are frustrated there seems to be no movement towards protocols for safe, outdoor dining events when the province has consistently found ways to support restaurants staying open.

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“We would (like to) have an opportunity to control an environment and still survive through the pandemic like the restaurants have,” Jason Harper, director of culinary operations at Cocktails and Canapes, said.

“There’s only so many things we can continue to come up with to continue to stay relevant and continue to draw in some revenue.”

Turner said his industry hasn’t had much support from restaurant or hotel industry groups, which are focused on keeping their members afloat.

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He’s calling on provincial health officials to look at amending health orders to make room for safe, outdoor dining — with COVID-19-related protocols in place.

“We’re sort of an island by ourselves at this moment, and banned from catering anything that resembles a gathering,” Turner said.

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“We’re asking for the opportunity to not host parties and late-night drinking and everything, we’re asking to be given the same rules of restaurants, where we can go and set up a responsible dining atmosphere outdoors in a field or a very large venue with spacing, and contact tracing and all the proper rules in place.”

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The details around what the 2021 wedding season will look like remain unclear, including event size limits, food restrictions and distancing rules.

The lack of clarity is compounded by uncertainty about how the province’s vaccine rollout will play out over the coming months. B.C. is hoping to get at least one dose of vaccine to all residents who want one by the end of June.

What is clear, however, is that the province remains concerned about the potential for weddings to act as suprespreader events.

In November, Fraser Health released an infographic that showed how 15 of 50 people who attended a wedding tested positive for COVID-19, with spread then linked to a family business, a long-term care home and 10 households.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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