If you can’t be respectful and follow the rules, you may not be welcome at B.C. restaurants.
This is the general message behind a campaign being launched by the BC Restaurant and Foodservices Association in response to concerning incidents that occurred recently at several establishments, including the Chinese Garden Restaurant in Blind Bay, where an enraged customer verbally lashed out at staff.
A video of the one-sided exchange went viral on social media.
News of another incident at a Mr. Mikes in Langford, where the restaurant said guests became belligerent when asked to follow COVID-19 policies, prompted a response from B.C. Premier John Horgan.
“To have idiots come in and be idiots is quite frankly not acceptable,” he said. “It’s not acceptable to abuse people when you’re going out to have a meal…People are just being stupid.”
BC Restaurant and Foodservices Association president and CEO Ian Tostenson called what he saw in the video at the Shuswap restaurant “disgusting,” noting such behaviour only exacerbates what is already a challenging time for restaurant owners.
“So we’re drawing a line, we’re starting a campaign…which is basically telling people if you can’t follow the rules then stay home because we’re not at all interested in trying to accommodate self-serving, narrow people that are putting their interests ahead of public safety, and putting business owners and their staff into a stressful environment,” said Tostenson.
He noted the majority of people are respectful and grateful to be able to be able to dine out or order in.
Though upset by what occurred at the Blind Bay restaurant, South Shuswap Chamber of Commerce executive director Karen Brown called the incident atypical.
Brown said she contacted the restaurant’s owner after the incident, adding she and other chamber members would be paying the restaurant staff a visit to show they’re loved.
Brown noted the chamber launched its own campaign this spring, Kindness is Contagious, as a reminder that this is a difficult time for many, and encouraging people to be respectful of one another.
“Let’s just take a deep breath here and follow the words of the provincial health officer, don’t judge, be kind and we’re all going to get through this together,” said Brown. “That’s really what it’s about.”
Brown is proud of the South Shuswap business community’s response to the pandemic, saying everybody is trying their best to keep visitors and staff safe.
Canoe Beach Cafe co-owner Jim Dunlop said they’ve had the odd irate customer over the years.
For some, a menu item was renamed in their honour.
“So we’ve had Mr. Cranky Pants burger for a while…,” laughed Dunlop. “The thing is, if I did that this year, I would run out of food options to name. Maybe I’m exaggerating a little bit. We’ve probably had five or six, as opposed to one or two people, who have really lost it.”
Dunlop said he and his wife Joyce have taken numerous steps to meet and exceed COVID-19 health and safety requirements at the cafe as both of them are immunocompromised.
“She’s just a walking miracle, she’s a three-time cancer survivor, she’s down to one lung, so can you ever imagine if we did contact COVID-19?” said Dunlop.
As a result, however, food service can be slow – something they explain in advance to their customers, the majority of whom are understanding.
Though optimistic about the future of the cafe, Dunlop is concerned for other B.C. restaurants that have been struggling under COVID-19.
“That’s why my message to everybody has just been lighten up, take a breath and try to think of what that other party is going through…,” said Dunlop, adding there’s no excuse for the hostile behaviour.
Regarding the man hurling hostilities in the video, Dunlop said he hopes it was a learning experience, that he apologizes and gets whatever help he may need.