On Being Kind to Grocery Clerks and Operating Restaurants in a Dangerous Time

The Intelligence Brief is our weekly compendium of food and drink news sourced from outlets all over the world, including right here at home.

Hey folks. Over the past week, we have seen sweeping changes in our city and across the world due to this spreading pandemic. Today we’ll provide an update on where things stand with the bar and restaurant industry both at home and abroad. But first…

A piece of advice: Just Stay The Fuck Away from Each Other.

News out of Vancouver this weekend indicates that many people are not taking this pandemic seriously. In fact, on Sunday evening, Mayor Kennedy Stewart announced that fines will be imposed for those not following social distancing rules. The sooner we heed the advice of our governments, the sooner we can beat this thing and safely leave our homes and get back to gathering in our favourite restaurants and bars. The more we ignore pleads for social distancing, the more we are putting vulnerable populations at risk. Seriously. We implore you to stay home as much as possible.

If you need information on what proper social distancing looks like, please consult this wealth of resources on the BCCDC.

As for the bar and restaurant industry, here’s where things stand:

Last Monday, we saw a few restaurants closing their doors as the growing threat to their staff and their diners became clear.

While no blanket orders for longer-term closures had come earlier last week, our local government had the foresight to order all bars and restaurants close for St. Patrick’s Day to avoid large public gatherings.

Further restrictions were issued on Monday when provincial health officials announced a ban on gatherings larger than 50 people leaving many restaurants with the choice to either reduce capacity or close altogether.

Come Friday, however, Mayor Kennedy Stewart ordered all bars and restaurants close with the exception of takeout and delivery services– a move which followed similar orders issued in New York and LA last week.

Those that were able to offer takeout quickly sprung into action. Here’s a growing list of local spots offering food to-go options.

One can only hope that Vancouver will also follow in the footsteps of New York by loosening up our local liquor laws and allowing bars to serve cocktails to-go. UPDATE: It has!

While the Vancouver’s Farmers Market is taking it one week at a time, they were able to remain open this Saturday with extra precautions in place, including limiting the number of shoppers allowed in the market to 20 at a time.

If you happen to be at the grocery store in the coming days, be patient and kind. Grocery store employees are on the frontlines of this outbreak, restocking shelves and making sure supplies are available under the most stressful conditions. Recognize the risk they are taking and thank them for their work.

And while you’re there, please don’t panic-buy. Supply chains remain intact. There is enough for everyone. But when you stockpile, you put others at risk. Only take what you need.

On a similar note, we’d like to give a shoutout to all the grocery stores around the country that have designated shopping hours for seniors as a way to increase safety for a vulnerable population. This is how we take care of our communities!

Meanwhile, the local hospitality community is mobilizing support. First up, check-out Breaking Bread which is collating a list of restaurants offering take-out, delivery, curbside pick-up, meal prep and groceries across the province

Next, Van Food and Beverage Community is raising funds to distribute to hourly workers who have lost their jobs as a result of Covid-19.

Meanwhile, in the US, F & B activist Ashtin Berry has developed a 3-point plan to lobby the federal government for sustainable changes to the industry that will address both the immediate crisis as well as the long-term well-being of its workers.

“There has been so much needed activation around relief, but it’s also brought up serious questions about the sustainability of our businesses and lack of structures for laborers. The question I and others keep pondering is what could a sustained model of activation look like?”

The current pandemic has left very few countries untouched. From Stockholm to Sao Paolo, Eater shares a glimpse at the impact Covid-19 has had on restaurant industries around the world.

Because I’m sure we could all use a drink right about now, Scout has mapped the city’s take-out and delivery beer options.

A reminder that there are still substantial ways you can help the hospitality community through this crisis. Servers, bartenders, barbacks and dishwashers have already been hard hit by this outbreak. This is a community that can’t work from home. They are hourly wage earners who often have fewer extended benefits and paid sick time. If you’re looking for ways for ways to support our local hospitality industry and employees:

– Purchase gift cards to use at a later date.

– Order food for pick-up or for delivery (keeping social distance during pick-up).

– Make sure to tip your delivery person well (in many ways, they are on the front lines).

Support your local food bank. This pandemic is increasing the number of people facing food insecurity. They ask that you prioritize financial donations over food so as these can be made online

– Engage with local restaurants, bars and cafes on social media. Share photos and leave words of encouragement and support.

– If you do need to go grocery shopping, consider supporting a local small business (they’re also often less busy than the larger grocery stores and have more supplies in stock).

– Buy restaurant/bar merchandise online if available (ie: t-shirts, hats, tote bags). Helen Rosner has compiled a list of great F & B merch on her IG Stories.

– If you have private events booked at any local bars/restaurants, consider postponing rather than canceling.

– Check in with your friends who are bartenders, servers, dishwashers, cooks, etc. and ask them how you can best support them through this.

– A little bit of hope to wrap up this week: While it may feel like a lifetime ago, we were still gathering in our local bars and restaurants as recently as ten days ago. We don’t know what the next few weeks and months hold, but we know that when the time is right and it is safe to do so, we will find our way back to these scenes of celebration and joy

For our neighbours, our families, our labourers, and our healthcare workers, please stay safe. Practice social distancing. Make good choices. The more we take care of those around us, the faster we’ll get through this together!

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