B.C. to lift capacity limits for organized indoor gatherings, events Oct. 25

Event venues in most of B.C. will be able to go back to full capacity for indoor organized gatherings starting next Monday, but proof of vaccination will be required. Liza Yuzda reports.

Event venues in most of B.C. will be able to go back to full capacity for indoor organized gatherings starting next Monday.

The changes apply to locations where proof of vaccination status is being checked, such as indoor sport centres, concert halls, movie theatres, dance and symphony events, and other indoor parties like weddings and funeral receptions outside of a mortuary.

“We had always intended to lift the capacity restrictions in these seated events … once we got to the point where it was only fully vaccinated people who were in those settings,” Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said. “We know that the risk of people who are fully vaccinated transmitting the virus and getting sick is much, much less so that reduces the risk enough that we are confident we can — when we get to that point — have more people in those environments.”

However, the lifting of capacity limits does not apply to places with regional restrictions like Northern Health, Interior Health and parts of Fraser Health.

Since B.C. entered Stage 3 of its COVID-19 restart plan earlier this year, organized indoor gatherings have been limited to 50 people or up to 50 per cent capacity (whichever is greater).

The requirement that all patrons be seated in restaurants and pubs is also being lifted after these industries expressed frustration with the rule.

“It’s a challenge for them to stop people from talking to a neighbour at another table and that can lead to challenges for staff who are already bearing the brunt of some people who don’t like the concept of the vaccine card,” Henry explained.

“So we are not seeing transmission in those settings where the vaccine card is used where people are checking vaccine status. So, again, it’s another one of those things that we follow the data that we are hoping to make it a little easier for restaurants and pubs in that respect.”

Ian Tostenson is with the BC Restaurant and Food Services Association — a group that represents bars, pubs, and restaurants. He says they are pleased with Tuesday’s news, but expects patrons will be cautious at least in the early going.

At least at restaurants, Tostenson says he still expects the public to be a little bit reserved.

“I don’t think you’re going to see people going wild and crazy in standing the aisles. I don’t think anybody wants that nor would we encourage that, because we’re still in a pandemic,” he said.

Tostenson adds the revised health order is a big boost to a sector that has already been through so much.

This news is especially welcome as we head into the busy holiday party season, he added.

The Greater Vancouver Board of Trade President and CEO Bridgitte Anderson is also welcoming the news adding the capacity  restrictions have had a “profound impact on our hospitality and tourism sector as well as the entertainment and event industries.”

Anderson says this is a “critical step towards our economic recovery,” and could even bring back jobs in some of our hardest-hit sectors.

“Relaxing capacity restrictions on indoor gatherings where proof of vaccination status is checked is evidence that the hard work of British Columbians is paying off and we can look forward to safely re-connecting in larger numbers,” a statement from the CEO reads.

Indoor mask requirements remain in effect for all indoor gatherings and events.

Henry added “I hate to say it” but these changes won’t mean dancing is allowed at nightclubs.

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“We are not yet at the point where we think we can get back to some of the normal activities and I know it’s going to be hardest particularly for nightclubs and some of the bars where this is an important part of the atmosphere in those settings,” she said.

The owner of Rickshaw Theatre in Vancouver says he still has questions about concerts at his venue and whether people will be allowed to stand for shows.

“There’s no real information as far as will … standing will be allowed? On the website it says no dancing, so what does that mean? People shuffling on their feel while watching a band play, is that alright?”

Mo Tarmohamad says the province needs to be more forthcoming about what rules his staff should be enforcing.

“Try to enforce the masking especially in certain crowded settings, obviously if people are having drinks you can’t have it with your mask on. If people are shuffling their feet while watching a band, we aren’t going to ask them to stop. It’s absurd,” Tarmohamad said.

He adds his staff will be working hard to ensure everyone is masked up, first and foremost. He notes in his most recent shows everyone is already double vaccinated, even though until Oct. 24, only one dose is required to enter certain settings.

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