Rumours about COVID-19 cause concern for bar managers in Nanaimo

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Some bars in Nanaimo dealt with with a rumour about a potential COVID-19 outbreak last week — one more hurdle for an industry already hard-hit by pandemic rules and regulations. A post in a Facebook group claiming a regular customer had tested positive for the virus caused concern for bar managers.

“The first and foremost concern of our general manager is the safety of patrons and staff. So she [had] to follow up with the Vancouver Island Health Authority,” said Jay Flett, entertainment manager at The Cambie in downtown Nanaimo.

He said management followed up with health officials and it was never confirmed there was a case of the virus associated with the bar. Flett is concerned fewer patrons will come into the bar out of fear caused by rumours and this could have a negative impact on his staff, who rely heavily on tips.

“People spreading malicious rumours could potentially put people into more debt and or worse,” Flett said. “I really would like to always look at people and think they are not capable of doing something like that just to be malicious, but we live in a strange time and people are capable of anything I suppose.”

Oceanside News tried reaching out to the person who supposedly started the rumour, but did not get a response. Rumours are only a part of the struggle small businesses, especially bars are facing because of the pandemic.

“We are trying our best to keep entertainment going and keep music alive… It’s really detrimental when the rumours start — it takes a long time for us to gain the confidence back in people,” said Jerry Hong, manager at The Queen’s bar in downtown Nanaimo. He said he had people contact him after hearing rumours about a COVID-19 exposure and they assumed it was at his establishment. No exposure of the virus has been confirmed at either The Queen’s or The Cambie.

Hong said the regulations put on pubs and bars by the province are not fair and he wishes they were similar to rules in Ontario, where regulations are more strict in hotspots. All pubs and bars in B.C. have to stop serving liquor at 10 p.m. and must be closed by 11 p.m., according to provincial health orders.

“That just seems ludicrous to me why they wouldn’t let us keep the people if they are in a controlled environment?” Hong said. 

He is concerned patrons will host gatherings in their homes instead of staying at the bar, where social distancing is followed and there are plexiglass shields between performers and patrons.

“You’re safer at The Queen’s than you are at a grocery store at this point in time,” he said. Hong said this rule has had a created a significant struggle for his bar. 

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