Theo's Greek restaurant on Main Street is a fixture in the Penticton food scene. The owner is saying he had to lay off 20 staff and questions why restaurants are targeted. (Monique Tamminga Western News)

Penticton eatery speaks out against the closure of restaurants without evidence

‘We pose no more risk than going to a grocery store’ and yet restaurants shuttered, staff laid off

Editor:

I will preface my foregoing comments by saying in no way shape or form would I want to trade places with the Ministry of Health and Dr. Henry. Overall I believe they are doing a good job to keep us safe but could do better!

I do however have some strong opinions and must speak on behalf of my two dozen laid-off staffers as a result of the most recent health orders to close all dine-in for the next three weeks (or more, who knows for sure?).

I feel the decision to deprive our valued locals of the opportunity to have a small mental health reprieve from the vestiges of the pandemic by going for dinner within their bubble is a colossal mistake.

I am unaware of any local restaurants that have contributed to the spread of COVID-19. I know for a fact here in Penticton we have some tremendous operators and staffers who take safe dine-in as seriously as we do. We have been putting ourselves at risk to serve the public since this all started so why would we let our guard down now?

By closing down well-operated restaurants with impunity without specific evidence is wrong. We pose no more risk than going to a grocery store. This decision sends out the signal that it is unsafe to dine in when in fact the opposite is arguably true.

If you think about the touchpoints of going to a grocery store jammed with people touching many multiple items versus a restaurant with a strong C-19 safety plan with well-spaced sanitized tables, I would choose a restaurant any day of the week.

As usual, the misbehaved child seems to get all the attention! A few unscrupulous operators who run bars disguised as restaurants have ruined it for the entire industry causing colossal losses for staff and operators across B.C .by allowing unenforced gatherings.

Unfortunately, my restaurant is not owned by a faceless corporation or franchise that can afford to build a massive outdoor patio, some are structural enclosures disguised as outdoor dining. This is a very unfair disadvantage.

My pandemic patio seating is a comical six persons; eight at best. In some ways, I cannot blame the government as they have no infrastructure to police these bad apples so it’s simply easier to close us. We are told we should be grateful for take-out, to which most of us are however for most it only represents about 20 to 40% of total sales in the average restaurant these days. That is barely enough to tread water and cover fixed costs for most.

The most recent decision to close down dine-in has given me a reason to question a few things:

Firstly: as an employer and taxpayer why am I not entitled to see the empirical evidence to support this decision? Is it because there isn’t any?

Secondly: Why hasn’t our association leadership not issued a statement condemning or challenging the action? (BTW according to Linkedin he has not worked in the private sector for decades). Perhaps he is a little out of touch with reality or hopeful for a ministry appointment someday or just doesn’t care? So which is it?

Thirdly: Why is it that our leaders are doing more to harm the foodservice and tourism industry ( a primary employer in B.C.) than to help it? Since the pandemic, we have seen little to no meaningful assistance from our Premier. Could it be that few of our workers are unionized who typically don’t support NDP? We have no say and are an easy target once again. (Remember NYE and St. Patrick’s Day). We are being treated like a marginalized sector of the economy even though we are told we are a big part of it. Oh, thanks for the break on wholesale alcohol pricing but last time I checked; zero x zero = zero!

I feel our industry has been unfairly targeted and little if anything is being done to support us during these tough times. Nonetheless, we are a resilient bunch and I am confident many will weather the storm.

Will see you all for safe dine-in when we reopen.

Thank you Penticton – Theo’s Loves You! Be well, stay safe.

Gregory Condonopoulos,

Owner/Director – Theo’s Restaurant.