BC’s Provincial Health Officer Amends Order For Food And Liquor Service Establishments to Provide Greater Clarity on its Application

The Provincial Health Officer (PHO) has issued another revised order for food and liquor service establishments in BC, to help clarify the content around which settings the order applies to. The July 31 order also reiterates the importance of continuing to follow the required COVID-19 controls in such businesses. This new order is applicable to all food and liquor service establishments, with immediate effect, and replaces the previously published PHO order, dated July 23.

The key points that have been highlighted in this updated order include the following:

  • The order clarifies the types of businesses that are covered, including owners and operators of restaurants, coffee shops and food primary and liquor primary establishments, such as pubs, bars, lounges and nightclubs. Businesses with manufacturing licences that operate tasting rooms or lounges are also covered by this order.
  • Coffee shops, private clubs and premises with a manufacturing licence, such as tasting rooms, may serve alcohol to customers from a counter and are excluded from the requirement to have assigned seating and to ensure that patrons remain seated and are served at their table.
  • Jam sessions and open mic events are not permitted. Where live background music is offered, performers must be separated from the audience by an appropriate physical barrier or by a distance of three metres.
  • Events may occur between 05:30 and 23:00 and up to four events may be held per day. At least one hour must be allowed between different events happening on the same day, to allow for emptying and thorough cleaning to take place.
  • The order does not apply to meetings, conferences or events held in hotels or elsewhere, such as at vacation accommodation. Please refer to the new public order for gatherings and events, issued on July 27, which repeals and replaces the previous order with respect to mass gatherings.
  • The order reiterates the need to adhere to strict physical distancing measures, emphasizing the requirement to manage group sizes and limit the movement of patrons when queuing to enter food and liquor service establishments and when inside. Further control measures specifically aimed at nightclubs and events are also included within the document.

We have summarized some of the tightened restrictions below that all food and liquor service establishments must now follow and build into their COVID-19 safety plans:

  • Patrons must be able to maintain a distance of two metres from other patrons unless they are separated by physical barriers.
  • Patrons must be assigned to a table, booth or counter, shown to their seats and remain seated throughout their visit, unless using a self-serve food or non-alcoholic drink station, washroom facilities or when entering/leaving the premises. The exception to this is patrons in premises with a manufacturing licence, such as tasting rooms, as well as coffee shops and private clubs, where patrons may go to the counter to be served a drink and who may remain standing while they consume their drink.
  • With the exception of coffee shops, private clubs and tasting rooms, there must be sufficient staff members to ensure that patrons remain seated and do not congregate.
  • There must be no more than six patrons seated at a table or booth, even if they belong to the same party. Moving between tables is not permitted and a distance of two metres must be maintained, unless a physical barrier is in place, even if members of the same party are seated at the adjacent table(s).
  • All patrons in bars and nightclubs will be required to be seated, alcohol self-service will not be available and dance floors will be closed, with no singing or dancing permitted. Barriers are to be provided where live entertainment is offered.

Additionally, all food and liquor service establishment operators must:

  • constantly monitor the number of patrons present on their premises and ensure that this number does not exceed the maximum number recorded in their safety plan.
  • assess their premises and the areas outside their premises for places where patrons may congregate or queue. Barriers, markers or other methods should be used to guide and assist patrons in maintaining a distance of two metres from other patrons and this must be closely monitored by staff.

For full details of the new order, including enhanced controls that must be followed when holding events in food and liquor service establishments, please click here.

COVID-19 health and safety support for food and liquor service establishments

All businesses in BC are required to have a COVID-19 safety plan in place. Businesses serving food and drink must now review their existing plans in light of this latest order being issued by the Provincial Health Officer (PHO), to ensure ongoing compliance and to help prevent the further spread of COVID-19.

Food and liquor service establishments must:

  • re-assess the risks in light of the new order;
  • introduce additional controls to manage the risks (e.g. reposition seating, install additional barriers, erect signage and stickers to better manage queues etc.);
  • update policies and procedures to reflect the new arrangements;
  • communicate the changes to staff members and patrons (don’t forget to update your website too) and;
  • continue to monitor and make adjustments to your plan, if required.

Food and liquor service establishments can expect to see an increase in WorkSafeBC and public health authority inspections over the coming weeks. Officers will be examining COVID-19 safety plans and seeking evidence that the plan has been clearly communicated to all and is proving effective at controlling the risk of COVID-19 transmission within the workplace.

Remember that:

  • Employers are ultimately responsible for the health and safety of their employees, customers and others who enter their workplace and must take all reasonable steps to protect their safety.
  • A public health or WorkSafeBC officer may call or visit your establishment to evaluate how you’re protecting your guests and workers. They may ask how you developed your plan and how effectively it is controlling the risk of COVID-19. They may also speak to your employees to gauge their understanding of the controls.
  • Your risk assessment process should identify all the risks in your workplace, in addition to COVID-19 related risks. Other risks may include slips, trips and falls, bullying and harassment and violence, and you should take appropriate steps to control them.
  • If your risk assessment process identifies a risk of violence in your workplace, you must develop and implement a violence prevention program. This includes implementing a written policy to eliminate or minimize the risk of violence, introducing violence prevention and de-escalation strategies and training your team.
  • You should involve your frontline workers, supervisors and joint health and safety committee (JHSC) or worker representative when assessing the risks in your workplace and implementing appropriate controls.
  • Aside from COVID-19 related requirements, all businesses in BC are required to have an occupational health and safety program in place. Work through go2HR’s Safety Basics Assessment to establish your health and safety program strengths and receive practical advice to help you improve your existing program.

Useful links:

If you have any questions regarding this new order or need support with any aspect of your safety plan, please contact us via phone or email: 604-633-9787 safety@go2hr.ca. Our qualified health and safety staff are available to assist and we look forward to supporting you and your team.