The Tourism Association of B.C. has negotiated what it calls a “big step in the right direction” for the recovery of hospitality and events businesses brought to a standstill by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a bulletin to members, the association announced it has been granted permission to hold business holiday events with more than 50 vaccinated people attending, without the seating requirement imposed for concerts, theatre, wedding and funeral receptions.
“Business events are allowed to have standing events,” Joanne Burns Millar of the association’s B.C. meetings and events industry working group wrote to members Dec. 7. “Networking, receptions, mingling are all acceptable. Holiday parties associated with businesses are considered business events.”
The working group has been meeting since March with provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Dr. Brian Emerson, assistant deputy provincial health officer, looking for ways for events to resume.
“Following a pivotal discussion last week with Dr. Bonnie Henry and Dr. Brian Emerson, chaired by Tourism Minister Melanie Mark, the working group was successful in receiving the distinction for business events in the latest provincial health order,” Millar wrote. “While progress for the sector has moved more slowly than we need to begin a measurable recovery, this distinction in the health orders is a big step in the right direction.”
Henry has adjusted public health orders on indoor and outdoor events several times as waves of coronavirus infection have affected B.C. They currently include a regional closure of liquor-primary bars and night clubs across the Northern Health region, covering all communities from Quesnel to the north. That ban cuts off restaurant liquor service at 10 p.m. and prohibits in-person worship services. It has been extended to the end of January.
The current orders define two categories of indoor events with more than 50 people attending, with proof of vaccination. Those without assigned seating requirements include “a conference, convention, commercial trade fair or workshop or home show,” as well as gambling, recreational education or classes such as arts, crafts, music, photography or travel education.
Henry has repeatedly warned of the virus transmission risk of emotional events such as wedding and funeral receptions, as well as singing and loud music that causes people to raise their voices. The orders maintain a ban on dancing for all events, and business events can only have background music or a stage performance with distance restrictions.
Also exempt from seating requirements are adult indoor sports, programs for children and youth such as Christmas concerts, and worship services other than in the Northern Health region.