The Tim Hortons enterprise is addressing the forced closure of one of its restaurants in downtown Vancouver, after city inspectors deemed the location to be in violation of the new restaurant operational restrictions put in place for COVID-19.
The municipal government says the restaurant at 108 West Pender Street in Chinatown, just beyond the Downtown Eastside, was found to be in violation of the orders of the Provincial Health Officer and the City that “limit the number of persons allowed in a restaurant and which restrict restaurants to take out and delivery service.”
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A bylaw officer visited the site on four different occasions and issued several warnings, with the latest inspection on March 26 resulting in the suspension of its business license for three days.
In a statement today, the company said the bylaw officer stated the reason for closure was that one additional person inside the premises exceeded the guidelines — 11 people, not 10 people.
They also suggest that enforcing proper physical distancing amongst their customers has been extremely difficult, given the location’s close proximity to the Downtown Eastside.
“This is an unfortunate isolated incident in a very challenging neighbourhood,” reads the corporate statement.
“The restaurant owner works diligently to serve the guests who frequent her store who often have challenging social needs.”
Prior to the forced closure, restaurant staff worked with the bylaw officer to meet standards, including adding taped lines for guests to stand in, providing visual markers for physical distancing.
The company adds the restaurant owner will enforce the 10-person rule, and will request the support of the Vancouver Police Department as needed to assist with enforcement.
The restaurant plans to reopen on Monday, complying with the order of the bylaw officer.
Many Downtown Eastside residents are highly vulnerable to COVID-19, given their struggles with proper shelter and pre-existing health conditions. Both the municipal and provincial governments, as well as local charities and non-profit groups, have enacted a series of measures that help promote good hygiene, provide a safe drug supply, and provide temporary accommodations to prevent large congregations in public.
The city has also opened up community centres as a key strategy to protect these vulnerable residents.
“Deploying them in this way is critical to try to prevent the spread of the virus and mitigate the demand on our health care system,” said Sadhu Johnston, Vancouver’s city manager.
“Many people experiencing homelessness are more likely to experience health issues and may be at greater risk if exposed to the virus, therefore this is an essential measure to protect all Vancouver residents, including those who are most vulnerable.”
Since March 20, inspectors have visited nearly 6,000 restaurants and 1,000 personal care businesses — such as hair and nail salons — to ensure compliance with the new COVID-19 restrictions. To date, the city’s 3-1-1 intake has received 69 complaints about restaurants, and 11 complaints about personal service facilities.
Businesses found to be in violation can be fined up to $50,000.