Restaurant owners and business leaders in Langley were excited and happy Tuesday as some COVID-19 restrictions were loosened and a road map to a long-term return to normal was unveiled by the B.C. government.
“We opened this morning at 11 o’clock,” said Brad MacLeod, owner of C-Lover’s Fish and Chips in Langley City.
The “circuit breaker” put in place expired as of Monday and government officials had already confirmed that indoor restaurant dining, with capacity limits, was to start today. A 1 p.m. press conference with Premier John Horgan, Health Minister Adrian Dix, and chief medical health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry made it official.
“Customers were very eager to get in,” said MacLeod.
The last couple of months have been tough for restaurants, he confirmed, with no indoor dining. C-Lovers has been doing okay with takeout, but the return to indoor dining is a big change.
“This enables us to bring back 10 to 12 more employees,” he said.
It was difficult to get staff back that fast and to start up supply chains so quickly, MacLeod noted.
The whole restaurant industry in Langley will be breathing a sigh of relief, according to Teri James, who is both executive director of the Downtown Langley Business Association and a City of Langley councillor.
“This is going to make the difference between staying open or not in many small restaurants,” she said.
The fact that there is now a timeline will be key for businesses of all kinds, said the CEO of the Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce.
“I think it’s good for everybody’s mental health to have goals at this point, but it’s paramount for the business community,” said Colleen Clark.
It’s an opportunity for a lot of people to get back to jobs they lost due to the previous restrictions, or for people to seek out new jobs, as things open up, Clark said.
She said one concern moving forward will be hiring and finding enough workers – some sectors had issues with that before the pandemic in B.C.
Businesses can’t force their employees to get vaccinated, but Clark is personally encouraging people to seek out reliable information on vaccines.
“Our solid path out of this, and to rebuild the economy, is vaccination,” she said.
Sports are also looking to make a comeback in the final step of the re-start, with outdoor adult rec sports able to restart immediately, and a plan for no limits on spectators at indoor and outdoor events by Sept. 7 at the earliest.
For now, even outdoor games will have no spectators, but it’s still a return to play, and Langley Rugby Club chair Brian Anderson was thrilled.
“This’ll be great!” he said.
“The no spectators part, well, we can understand that.”
There has been youth rugby practice running under a safety plan, but this means a return to games and adult play and practice as well for the club, which has a field in Milner.
“At least it’s something for us to work towards,” said Dale Saip, vice-president with the Langley-based Vancouver Giants.
He noted that the Giants organization is right now helping organize and run the vaccination centre that has taken over the floor of the Langley Events Centre, where the Giants may resume play if all goes well with the re-opening.
“We’re trying to encourage everybody to get their vaccine so we can get back to work,” Saip said. That means everybody – Giants players, their families, fans, and the wider community, he said.
The rules eased Tuesday also allow for more personal visits by families, a resumption of outdoor local team games and practices, recreational travel within regional zones of the province, and up to 10 people for seated indoor gatherings such as church services.
Three more phases of the re-opening are planned, each one based on both a date and a minimum number of adults with their first vaccination shots. The next phase could start as early as June 15, if 65 per cent of the population has a first shot and cases and hospitalizations are both declining.
The rules specify that movie theatres could re-open as soon as Step 2, in mid-June, while casinos and night clubs could open as early as July 1 for Step 3, although in all cases there would be capacity limits and safety plans needed.
That could mean a re-opening for Langley City’s Cascades Casino, and a resumption of the stream of revenue that Langley City relied on for capital projects, noted James.
“That light at the end of the tunnel is getting closer, and its getting stronger, and brighter,” said Henry during the announcement of the four-step schedule of the re-opening plan.
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