A new ban on indoor dining is taking its toll on Tri-City restaurants already buffeted by COVID-19 restrictions, a stagnating economy and high food prices.
But for one Port Coquitlam restaurant owner, and his partner, this latest decision by Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry comes just as he was starting to build clientele after opening Grelhados in January in Fremont Village in Port Coquitlam.
Pete Sandhu and Servjit Grewal had already delayed the opening of the new restaurant by several months due to COVID-19 restrictions and were just starting to fill dining tables when indoor dining was banned for three weeks.
Now they are trying to figure out a way to keep the restaurant going, staff busy and build their clientele.
“I am worried a little bit,” he said. “If I look at overall picture, I’m not the only one. But I am brand new, I am trying to establish a name out there.”
NEW B.C. RESTRICTIONS BAN INDOOR DINING IN RESTAURANTS AND PUBS FOR THREE WEEKS
On Monday, Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, outlined a series of restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19 in the province, including a ban on indoor dining at restaurants and pubs. Such establishments will be allowed to remain open, but only for patio service or takeout and delivery.
But with only four tables on the patio and no indoor diners, Grelhados will see fewer patrons over the next three weeks while the “circuit breaker” restrictions are in place and Sandhu is worried the dine-in ban will last longer, as it did last year when dine-in was banned for at least two months.
An experienced restaurateur with 14 years in the business starting out as a dishwasher and then trained in hospitality in Ontario, Sandhu said he’d normally expect to see people start coming in his doors out of curiosity “to see what all the hype is about.”
Now, after a challenging winter, he’s anxious about what the spring will bring.
Sandhu hopes people will order take-out of Grelhados’ Portuguese-inspired dishes, using such popular delivery services such as Uber Eats and Skip the Dishes, and with an increase in people eating Grelhados at home, he hopes to keep his staff.
To keep customers coming, even during the dine-in shutdown, Grelhados has developed a line of signature cocktails that will be made fresh, poured into a bottle, for take-out by adults of legal age.
Sandhu said people will be able to order peach and citrus bellinis, margaritas and other signature cocktails that people can drink on their own patios at home.
“I am gonna be losing all of the seating and ambience — we are known for our ambience — we will be losing a lot of eat-in reservations and tables, but we hope to make it up with take-out,” he said.
In announcing the restrictions, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said they are aimed at curbing spread happening in social situations.
Henry said the new restrictions will be in effect until at least April 19.
But the past several months have been a long haul for restaurants and pubs trying to stay open with reduced capacity and this latest ban on indoor dining will be difficult to manage.
Meanwhile, many groups are trying to support local restaurants by buying gift cards, ordering take-out, and featuring Tri-City restaurants for their special events.
For Sandhu, who has owned restaurants previously, COVID-19 has been a challenge, but he’s maintaining a positive attitude. While he hopes Grelhados catches on — he’s hoping to franchise the business — he knows all he has to do is provide good food so people will come back and refer their friends.
“It’s word of mouth. People have been very supportive.”