Manitoba restaurant industry calls closure of in-person dining ‘absolutely destructive’

WINNIPEG — As the normal dinner rush would have gotten underway Friday evening, Manitoba announced new restrictions closing in-person dining at restaurants, bars, and patios.

“The only word I can say is decimation,” said Shaun Jeffrey, executive director of the Manitoba Restaurant and Foodservices Association.

“This is going to be absolutely destructive to the restaurant industry here in Manitoba.”

Jeffrey said restaurants have been teetering on survival over the last 14 months, and this latest round of restrictions will likely result in 15,000 Manitobans being put out of work.

“It’s a pretty sombre day in our industry.”

Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin said restaurants, bars, and patios can still provide take-out and delivery services.

“We’re at a critical stage, and so we just aren’t going to take any chances,” said Roussin.

“We know that, typically through multiple waves in other jurisdictions, prolonged indoor contact is a risk factor for transmission.”

Roussin said the province tried to reduce the risks by initially implementing the household-only rule, but noted there are challenges with enforcement.

Jeffrey disagrees with these measures, saying when case numbers were last at their highest in November and December, restaurants weren’t even open.

“These decisions, they’re not fact-based, they’re not evidence-based, and to be honest with you, they don’t make any sense,” Jeffrey said.

He said it is frustrating that the restaurant industry isn’t able to weigh in when the province makes these decisions.

“The reality is that we have been doing so much within our industry to keep Manitobans safe,” he said. “We have introduced monumental policies and procedures to keep Manitobans safe.”

Jeffrey noted the timing of the announcement was disrespectful — both with the fact it happened at 6 p.m. on a Friday and only two days before Mother’s Day, which is when the restrictions will go into effect.

“The only word I can say is inconsiderate.”

The restrictions will take effect Sunday, May 9 at 12:01 a.m. and will be in effect until Sunday, May 30. 

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