Restaurants want security

Restaurant association calls for security-cost help as vaccine passport looms

Restaurants want security

After angry protests over the province’s impending new vaccine passport, the B.C. Restaurant and Foodservices Association is calling on the province to offset costs of added security at bars and restaurants before the program comes into effect on Sept. 13.

Association chief executive Ian Tostenson said Thursday the industry feels it should be compensated for the expected pushback and increased cost.

“We are doing this, and we are doing it for the benefit of B.C. to motivate people to get vaccinated,” he said. “It seems reasonable to free up some resources to help us do that.”

From Sept. 13, British ­Columbians 12 years and older will need to provide proof of at least one dose of vaccine to enter non-essential businesses and events, including sports competitions, nightclubs, restaurants and movies. Beginning Oct. 24, only fully vaccinated people will be permitted entry.

Given the protests this week near hospitals and already high tensions over mask rules in ­restaurants, the industry is ­worried the vaccine passport program will result in tense standoffs at the door.

Tostenson said the association has forwarded to government a wishlist of things they would like to see before restaurants have to start checking vaccine status and identification.

The list includes clear signage in multiple languages, resources to train staff on how to check ID and vaccine status, information on the kinds of vaccine proof and ID staff will see, fines and penalties for restaurants that flout the rules and assurances the technology the province will be using will work in all settings.

Money for added security was not originally on that list, but Tostenson said it became important after an incident in Port Alberni this week when a customer urinated in a fast-food restaurant when told he would not be served if he didn’t obey the rules.

Tostenson said many restaurants, including quick-service establishments, don’t have a greeting station where patrons can be checked and informed of the rules, and may need additional security.

That’s already on the cards in some Victoria restaurants.

Rob Chyzowski, owner of Belleville’s Watering Hole, said he had no choice but to hire security ahead of Sept. 13 after what has been a difficult summer at times for his staff as they enforced mask rules.

“It’s getting nasty out there,” he said. “Our staff are really concerned about their safety. It’s been a tough summer with just masks — that was hard enough, but now they have to deal with vaccination status.”

Chyzowski said it’s not fair to have young hosts on the front line dealing with belligerent customers, so he will have security in the evenings, and he intends to work the door for a while to see what staff have to deal with.

Chyzowski added that it’s already difficult getting people to take host jobs.

“It’s harder than finding cooks right now,” he said. “A lot are tired of dealing with the people — it has been a long summer with a lot of rude customers.”

Petr Prusa, owner of Floyd’s Diner, said he is planning to have discussions about security so wait staff don’t have to deal with people upset about vaccine passports. “We always have lines at the door, so yeah, it’s a concern,” he said.

Tostenson hopes the province will work with the industry to come up with resources to help deal with the issue and help the industry recruit people to work.

“Right now we are trying to attract people to our industry, and when you hear about things like Port Alberni, those young people start to wonder if that is what they want to be doing,” he said. “We need protection around that.”

Tostenson said equipping restaurants with the resources to handle what’s to come is one way for the province to get through the next phase of the pandemic without having to close restaurants again.

Campus-like design chosen for new Nanaimo Correctional Centre

New jail for Nanaimo

A new $157-million Nanaimo Correctional Centre will have a college-campus-like design that puts the emphasis on the facility’s training and therapeutic programs and takes advantage of the natural setting.

A dozen new buildings within a fenced enclosure on the 47-acre property are envisioned by architect IBI Group for Stuart Olson Construction Ltd., the firm heading the design-build project to replace the old jail.

Inmates will be able to take advantage of educational, vocational and certified trades training, as well as Indigenous programming developed in collaboration with the Snuneymuxw and Snaw’Naw’As First Nations. Some training will be offered in partnership with Vancouver Island University.

The correctional centre, which houses men with a medium-security classification, will also become Vancouver Island’s first provincial custody unit for women, providing a place for women in short-term custody who are on remand or waiting to be transferred to serve a sentence.

A phased development plan will see the facility continue to operate while existing buildings are taken down and new construction is completed on the sloping site, which runs from Biggs Road down to the lake.

Architectural documents ­submitted to the City of Nanaimo show the new facility’s capacity at 202 inmates, up from the ­current 190. Staff numbers would rise to 165 from 124.

Architect Tony Gill told the advisory panel the goal is to create a small campus on the property, with numerous ­walking paths.

The province said in 2019 that it favoured a campus-style configuration for the remodelled and modernized correctional facility, originally developed as a reform school in 1953.

The total floor area for all the buildings will be 182,039 square feet.

Outdoor features include a playing field near Biggs Road, a spiritual area within the trees, various sizes of dining rooms, a healing garden, outdoor common plazas, outdoor dining, an amphitheatre and seating.

The province estimates construction of the new facility will create about 650 direct and 275 indirect jobs.

More cases of new variant of COVID-19 can be expected in B.C.: Health Ministry

More variant cases expected

More cases of a new, highly transmissible COVID-19 variant strain are expected in B.C. in the coming weeks, after the first incidence was reported on Vancouver Island over the weekend.

“While everything is being done to prevent spread to other people in the community, we do expect to see more cases of this variant in B.C. in the coming weeks, just as other jurisdictions are seeing,” a Health Ministry spokeswoman said Monday.

It’s for this reason that health officials are asking British Columbians to keep to their household members, avoid all non-essential travel, and use layers of protection including physical distancing and masks. “All British Columbians have to remember the virus spreads quickly but shows up slowly,” said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix in a joint statement.

A pre-symptomatic person returned to B.C. on flight AC855 from London to Vancouver on Dec. 15 and developed symptoms while in quarantine, Henry and Dix said.

The Health Ministry won’t say how the person travelled to the Island or where specifically they are located.

Flight AC8265 that arrived in Nanaimo from Vancouver later that same day is also on the B.C. Centre for Disease Control’s list of COVID-19 exposures.

On Dec. 19, the person on the Dec. 15 London-Vancouver flight tested positive on Vancouver Island for COVID-19.

The person’s test sample was sent to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control on the Lower Mainland for whole genome sequencing and on Dec. 26 it was identified as positive for the U.K. variant.

Whole genome sequencing is complex and take on average five days to complete, the Health Ministry said.

Ongoing reviews may identify additional cases in the coming days, Henry and Dix said.

On Dec. 21, Henry said “to date, we have not seen this variant here in B.C..”

The Health Ministry confirmed Henry “was not aware of a case of the variant in B.C. at the time of her Dec. 21 media availability.”

The variant, which researchers say is more contagious than previous forms of the COVID-19 virus, has caused record numbers of infections in the U.K., accounting for more than 60 per cent of cases in London. It prompted Canada to suspend flights from the U.K. Dec. 20 to Jan. 6, 2021. Other countries have taken similar action.

Alberta has also confirmed a case of the variant.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, in her first news conference since before Christmas, said the infected person recently arrived in Alberta from the U.K. The person did everything they were supposed to upon arrival, staying isolated from others, and there is no evidence their illness has spread, she said.

Health officials in Alberta are working with the Public Health Agency of Canada to obtain a list of people who were sitting near the infected person on their flight to Alberta, she said.

The variant has been ­confirmed in three people in Ontario — a couple from ­Durham Region who had been in contact with a recent traveller from the U.K. and a person in Ottawa who had recently ­travelled from the U.K.

“B.C. continues to support the Canada-wide travel ban on all flights arriving from the U.K. until Jan. 6, 2021, and urges all British Columbians to continue to avoid all non-essential travel to keep people and communities safe,” Henry and Dix said.

As the COVID-19 pandemic evolves, so does the province’s response, but “greater restrictions are not being considered at this time,” the Health Ministry said.

“What has arisen in the U.K. is a new variant with a number of mutations, as many as 17 mutations, different changes in parts of the virus,” said Henry.

The variant strain can transmit more quickly and easily but does not seem to cause more severe illness, nor interfere with the effectiveness of vaccines, nor affect the ability of testing for the virus, she said.

Neither the province nor Island Health has updated the number of new COVID-19 cases since Dec. 24. An update is scheduled for 3 p.m. today.