This week is the Business Development Bank of Canada’s Small Business Week (#BDCsbw), and they’re honouring stories of resilience with their 2020 theme, Forging the Way Forward. Typically, we would be joyfully celebrating innovators and entrepreneurs, but this year, we’re forced to examine the landscape through a more sobering lens.

Businesses are facing a challenging reality, and the clock is ticking for much-needed support for particular sectors, mainly, hospitality businesses. Among the first to close, the last to open, and arguably the hardest hit, many restaurants and bars simply may not be able to weather targeted restrictions — which initially included complete closure for beverage rooms for at least two weeks.

However, the Province of Manitoba delivered an email to subscriber inboxes just after 9 PM on the evening of October 19. Manitoba’s Chief Provincial Public Health Officer issued a new public health order that went into effect at 11 PM, and which will remain in effect until at least 11 PM on November 2, 2020. (These measures will be in effect for two weeks, and may be renewed with additional restrictions if these changes are unable to slow the community transmission currently seen in the Winnipeg Metropolitan Region.) This order replaces the previous order which had just come into effect October 19 at 12:01 AM.

Under the new order:

  • The maximum size of gatherings is reduced to five people. This applies to ceremonies such as weddings and funerals and social events like banquets and receptions, as well as informal gatherings such as dinners and house parties. Gatherings involving more than five persons may take place if:
    • the number of persons attending does not exceed 30 per cent of the usual capacity of the place or premises where the gathering is held;
    • the place or premises where the gathering is held is physically divided into separate areas which contain no more than five persons each; and
    • persons in each area are prevented from coming into close proximity with persons in another area during the gathering as well as when entering or leaving.
  • Casinos and bingo halls must close.
  • Entertainment facilities with a license under the Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Control Act that requires the licensee to present live entertainment must close to members of the public, with the exception of providing food for take-out or delivery. Other licensed businesses must limit occupancy to 50 per cent of their usual capacity.
  • The maximum occupancy of retail businesses and restaurants is limited to 50 per cent of their usual capacity.
  • The maximum occupancy of personal service businesses is limited to 50 per cent of their usual occupancy or one person for each 10 square metres of the premises that is open to the public, whichever is less.
  • Operators of a restaurant or licensed premises, theatre, museum, gallery, library, personal service business, concert hall, or fitness facility are required to keep contact information for members of the public attending their premises and maintain those records for 21 days to support contract tracing. For further information on the businesses that are subject to this requirement, please see the orders.
  • Following further review, facilities licensed as beverage rooms under the Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Control Act have not been closed under the order. All other requirements for licensed premises will still apply.
  • This order also removed one item in its entirety: the requirement to reduce the number of spectators to 25 per cent of a site’s capacity for after-school activities and sporting events.

Over the weekend, I was invited to take part in a number of media interviews regarding the restrictions and to voice our concerns. We understand that Public Health has to take new and drastic measures to control the spread of COVID-19, but any restrictive measure is going to be problematic from an economic standpoint. It is incumbent upon the provincial government to step up and help these businesses weather this storm.

The Manitoba Chambers of Commerce is committed to working alongside our fellow associations to champion key support for food and beverage providers, and we will update our pandemic restart guide accordingly.