On Closing Ancient Food Halls and Dumb Customers Making Bad Situations Worse

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

I was another record breaking week in BC as new daily Covid-19 case counts surpassed previous highs. On Friday the province announced 1262 new cases with hospital admissions up by 53% in the last week and ICU cases up 63%. Current restrictions are in place for another week but questions loom around whether or not more are on the way given the concerning rise in cases. As the indoor dining ban remains in place, we continue to cover how the food and beverage industry is faring through this third wave of the pandemic.

First up, the BC government has pledged $50 million in support of businesses that have been impacted by recent shutdowns. Whether or not that will be enough to make a difference for an already struggling restaurant industry remains to be seen. (Spoiler alert: it won’t be.)

Meanwhile, over in Ontario, the industry is calling on the provincial government to provide financial support to the tune of $100 million following their most recent round of lockdowns.

It’s not just us. Portland restaurants are also facing increased restrictions as case numbers are on the rise again in the area.

Last week Kitsilano’s Corduroy restaurant was shut down after its owner, Rebecca Matthews, loudly defied BC Health orders and kept its dining room open. The drama prompted its sister-in-law restaurant, Fairview’s non-offending, Covid protocol-observing Corduroy Pie Co. (in which Matthews was invested), to temporarily close so it could bang out a “new ownership structure”. The dust has yet to settle, so tune in next week for some possible resolution.

While some choose to defy the rules, others are closing voluntarily to avoid further spread of the virus and confrontation with disruptive guests.

Stateside, restaurant workers are fighting for their spot to get vaccinated as more than half of the states have expanded eligibility to anyone over the age of 16.

“Over the past couple weeks, COVID-19 vaccine eligibility has opened up across the country, with more than half the states expanding to include all adults ages 16 and up. This has led to a flood of eligible people vying for vaccination appointments and, in some cases, demand outpacing supply. Restaurant and other food service workers are among those who find themselves in competition for those coveted slots — and for many of them, there’s the added pressure of having to report for work in cities and states where restrictions on dining have been loosened or lifted.”

Similarly, The New York Times takes a closer look at some of the issues that are preventing restaurant workers from having timely access to the vaccine.

While restaurants in the US are opening more rapidly, owners are finding that they’re now contending with staff shortages:

“Restaurant employment has risen each month this year, according to the National Restaurant Association, but staffing levels at full-service restaurants in February were still 20 percent — or 1.1 million jobs — lower than a year ago. (Employment at quick-service and fast-casual restaurants was down just 6 percent over the same period.) Owners and chefs at full-service restaurants say the main reason staffing remains stubbornly low is that there are simply many more job openings than available workers.”

A quirky new problem born out of the pandemic as restaurants re-open stateside: guests that have nowhere else to be.

“Amid happy reunions, ample drinking, and long-delayed special-occasion meals, the usual turnover time for tables is going out the window. Restaurateurs have spent the past year longing to get customers back into their dining rooms. Now, some of them don’t want to leave.”

If you’re looking to support the local industry through this lockdown, consider checking out a few of these craft brewery patios in the coming week.

Perhaps you can pair your beer with a Katsu Sando and curly fries from Pizza Coming Soon — a must try according to Scout’s editor!

Something to look forward to: Kitchen Table restaurants announces the coming of a new wine bar within the Fairmont Pacific Rim.

It seems that scientists have found a way to remove smoke taint from wine grapes affected by recent fires on the west coast. Now if they can just figure out how to prevent wildfires in the first place, we’ll be golden.

Interesting: New Yorker columnist Adam Platt hypothesizes that Miami may offer a glimpse into the future of Manhattan dining post-pandemic.

Niet! Moscow’s palatial Yeliseyevsky food hall closes after 120 years.

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