Expecting crazy fans, painted faces and raucous cheers at Port Coquitlam and Coquitlam bars on Sunday?
Think again. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has called for a time out on Super Bowl fun — even the giant screen TVs showing the afternoon game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs will have to be turned down low so people don’t speak loudly and spread the virus.
Now, B.C.’s sports bars and restaurants are being warned to not do anything that will make watching the Super Bowl this weekend ‘special.’
That’s according to B.C.’s Alliance of Beverage Licensees (ABLE BC), which informed its members across the province Tuesday that bars and restaurants “must not host or promote anything resembling an ‘event.’”
“You must treat Super Bowl as any other televised sports game you might routinely display,” wrote the organization in correspondence to its members and seen by the Tri-City News.
“Do not have any promotional sales or anything that would make Sunday seem ‘special’ or out of the ordinary.”
The industry group added businesses should not actively promote the Super Bowl; offer contests, raffles, specials or draws; sell advance tickets; or charge a cover at the door.
But for management at least one Coquitlam pub, many of the measures don’t appear to make establishments any more dangerous, and how to follow restrictions and avoid fines on the usually busy Sunday is still not clear.
“We’re kind of in a holding pattern,” said Owen Coomer, general manager of The Taphouse, which operates some of the largest hybrid pub-nightclubs in the province with locations in Coquitlam and Surrey.
“Everything is just too vague.”
'WHERE IS THE LINE?'
In a post on Facebook Jan. 26, The Taphouse Coquitlam told customers it had already booked all of its available tables, which Coomer says are set well below the provincial limit.
Coomer had planned to condense his food and drink menu to a handful of ‘tailgate’ menu items, something he said makes it easier to manage the high volume of orders.
“It’s not like we’re trying to give away the house,” he said. “We just don’t want someone to get in and see chilli on the menu and get a fine.”
At the same time, Coomer said he knows of many other bars and pubs going ahead with promotions, specials and prizes during Super Bowl Sunday, and that by doing nothing to distinguish his business with something unique, it’s hard to compete.
“It’s so frustrating,” he said. “We’re just trying to do something different for a customer to come to us instead of a competition — especially in this grim environment.”
He added: “We’re very fortunate to still be open compared to the rest of the country… I would rather it be just black and white. Where is the line?”
BETTER THAN NEW YEAR'S
Over at the Gillnetter Pub in Port Coquitlam, Super Bowl Sunday will be a quiet affair, with the bar at roughly 30% capacity and reservations required.
But those who do make it out for the 3:30 p.m. game won’t see much of the traditional hoopla, hear the usual raucous noise or be able to participate in games that usually get the patrons going on game day.
“We can’t have a party,” acknowledged manager Leisa Popove as she planned for a quieter event.
“Honestly, this is better than what they did on New Years,” said Popove, who said provincial health orders shut down bars and pubs at 8 p.m. on Dec. 31, challenging business owners who had purchased supplies for a long evening.
Popove said she hopes there won’t be any last-minute rule changes that would affect Sunday’s opening but she said diners can expect TV volumes set low, as required by B.C. COVID-19 rules, and no table-hopping to avoid the transmission of the virus.
“We’re are going to do it as a normal evening dinner service,” Popove confirmed.
Under new rules, the pub can’t advertise Super Bowl either.
Popove said the pub quickly took down an ad for dine-in service after it heard about the order.
INCREASED ENFORCEMENT, INDIVIDUAL CHOICES
It appears flouting Dr. Henry’s orders doesn’t pay as hundreds of British Columbians have been hit with fines.
Between Aug. 21, 2020, and Jan. 29, 2021, 806 COVID-19 related violation tickets were issued in B.C., according to the Ministry of Public Safety and the Solicitor General. Of those, enforcement officers have handed out as many as 28 $2,300 violation tickets for contravention of the Public Health Office’s Food and Liquor Serving Premises Order — totalling $64,000 in fines.
On Monday, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry warned WorkSafeBC and environmental health inspectors would be stepping up monitoring and enforcement to ensure bars and restaurants were compliant with public health orders, but added that part of the onus is on the public to avoid gathering in homes or bars with people outside of their household.
It’s not an establishment’s responsibility to check patron’s identification to confirm contact tracing details at the door or whether a group of patrons are from the same household or bubble.
Together with ABLE BC, the B.C. Restaurant and Food Services Association and Restaurants Canada have been in regular discussions with Henry and her staff to clarify the rules around operating on Super Bowl Sunday.
Henry is expected to provide more details in a briefing Friday.