The Fernie Chamber of Commerce has launched a new campaign to encourage locals to support local restaurants hit by the latest public health orders.
The #FernieToGo bingo game features a bingo card with Fernie restaurants and bars offering take-out or delivery. Locals who eat at multiple Fernie restaurants and fill a line or row on the bingo card (available on Facebook) go into the draw to win $500 in cash.
“These latest restrictions on in-person dining are another blow to our already struggling food & beverage industry in Fernie. Our restaurants and bars have been hit hard by this announcement, and with very little notice given ahead of a busy long weekend,” said Brad Parsell of the Fernie Chamber.
“We stand united with other Chambers of Commerce and our business community in asking provincial leaders to reconsider the impacts of a blanket health order like this one with no lead time. We are also calling on additional supports for businesses impacted by these restrictions.”
Local MLAs in the Kootenays and the Federal MP for Kootenay Columbia have spoken up about the new orders, with Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka saying the lack of a warning to restaurants across B.C. was not fair.
“Restaurant owners and small business owners got hit with a closure with essentially enough time to wipe the tables down, lock the doors and they’re gone until the [April] 19th. This is what happened during New Years, it’s happened during other holidays where the government just figures that businesses can operate with an on-off light switch.
“It doesn’t work that way.”
Shypitka is himself a former restaurant owner.
“You do the due diligence, you order food, you stock your fridges, you got your produce, you got your poultry, you got your meat, you’ve got everything ready to go, you’re bar is stocked, and then the government gives you a six-hour notice to say, ‘Guess what, you’re closed for three weeks,’” he said.
Kootenay-Columbia MP Rob Morrison also weighed in, throwing his support behind Shypitka and neighbouring MLA Doug Clovechok who echoed similar sentiments.
“Shutting restaurants down with no notice when they have already purchased supplies for a busy Easter weekend is not a Canadian way to lead,” said Morrison in a statement.
In Fernie, patio season will be coming early.
Manager of planning with the City of Fernie, Patrick Sorfleet explained that the city was working on bringing up the patio season from the typical opening day of May 1 in a bid to soften the blow on local restaurants.
“Due to the early start, snow clearing may still be required and street sweeping has not yet been completed so we are working with patio operators to mitigate these issues and have patios open starting this weekend,” said Sorfleet.
The Fernie Chamber of Commerce has joined with other chambers from across the Kootenays and the province to seek a more regional approach to COVID-19 restrictions on businesses.
“In other jurisdictions outside of B.C. areas that are not being severely impacted by the increase in COVID cases are not put under the same restrictions as areas that have been harder hit. The pandemic in the Kootenays has been very different than the Lower Mainland, and the Fernie Chamber would like to see this regional approach adopted moving forward.
While that discussion happened, the Fernie Chamber wanted the community to rally behind local restaurants.
“We are so lucky to have the vibrancy and passion that we have in our business community. I encourage all Fernie locals to dig deep over the next few weeks, support local by ordering take-out where you can, and be in the running to win $500,” said Parsell.
The campaign will run by March 30 through to April 19 (when the new orders are scheduled to be lifted).
Full details on the #FernieToGo campaign are available on the Fernie Chamber of Commerce Facebook page.
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-With files from Trevor Crawley.