Physically distanced tables and messages on the projector screens remind guests of COVID-19 safety protocols at Royal King Palace in Surrey. (Photo: Royal King Palace/Facebook)

B.C. banquet halls want help from provincial, federal governments

Associaton president says halls ‘don’t have any means of paying any bills’

The B.C. Banquet Hall Association president says it needs some type of relief “to carry us through this time.”

On Sept. 8, in Health Minister Adrian Dix and Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced that all bars, nightclubs and banquet halls would be closed until further notice.

READ ALSO: B.C. to shut down nightclubs, banquet halls; limit late-night alcohol sales at bars, Sept. 8, 2020

“I use orders as a last resort… we do it for things where we know it will make a difference,” said Henry.

Henry said the closures come after it became clear that banquet halls and nightclubs became “high-risk places” that were unable to bring in enough safety measures to keep guests safe. However, she said that a curfew has not been considered.

Sukh Mann, the association president, told the Now-Leader Thursday (Sept. 10) that because banquet halls are standalone businesses, they “don’t operate with any other source of business that we can generate revenue from.

“We don’t have any means of paying any bills. It would be a different story if we could multi-use our space if we were a cultural centre.”

He said they are “specialty businesses, and the problem is they are expensive businesses.”

The association, according to Mann, is made up of 18 banquet halls in the Lower Mainland.

He added that some halls have monthly mortgage payments between $10,000 and $15,000, while others are between $40,000 and $50,000.

In order to help keep the business stay afloat for the foreseeable future, Mann said the association is asking for help from the federal and provincial governments.

“How long is it going to be before the bank says, ‘OK, I don’t care what your situation is, pay me my money.’ What’s the landlord going to say, how long is he going to wait.”

He said he’s talked to local MLAs and MPs, but said he has been unable to get help on the matter.

The Now-Leader has reached out to local MLAs and MPs.

“We don’t even know how long we’re shut down for,” said Mann. “We don’t know what’s going to happen. Obviously, the weddings are booked for next year. I have so many parties booked for next year and 2022. I don’t know what to do right now. We’re all looking for answers as well.”

He said the banquet halls had been staying open as a “community favour” so people wouldn’t throw parties for large groups in their homes.

“One week I had seven parties booked; five of them cancelled because they can’t dance,” said Mann, adding that the partygoers would just set up at home instead.

“There’s no COVID rules (there).”

This comes on the heels of the association putting out a release Aug. 23 stating “Banquet Halls in BC Want Government to Shut Them Down.”

READ ALSO: Shut us down, banquet hall owners ask B.C. government, Aug. 24, 2020

But Mann insists that the intention of the release was to highlight all of the restrictions in place at that time that the government “might as well shut us down.”

He said the industry was “already struggling” with the limit of 50 people per party, and the association wanted the provincial government to instead consider allowing 50 per cent capacity.

– With files from Tom Fletcher

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