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Vancouver restaurants making painful decision to curb patio service amidst new restrictions on dine-in (VIDEO)

Indoor dining is off the table until April 19, but for some restaurants with tiny patios, it means drastically scaling back operations, or simply closing down

A three-week suspension of indoor dining in British Columbia may stop the transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19) but it could also mean some businesses have to drastically curb operations or shut down altogether.

The new public health order amendments were announced by Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry on Monday, March 29, and went into effect at midnight.

Indoor dining is off the table in the province until April 19. 

What for some restaurants with robust permanent or temporary patio programs in place may be a dip in business, for others the prospect of a three-week pause means giving up a far too significant portion of their operation, forcing them to make the difficult decision to close down indefinitely.

One such restaurant is Como Taperia, the award-winning Mount Pleasant modern Spanish tapas bar, that up until Monday were planning on expanding its operations to seven days a week. Now, they're scaling back almost entirely.

'We had no idea' 

Co-owner Shaun Layton said the popular restaurant had just come off a successful string of days when the restrictions were announced.

"We had no idea," he told V.I.A. Tuesday, adding that the restaurant had just hired two key new staff members - a manager and a wine director - and was in the process of "ramping up for what was going to be a great spring-summer." 

Now those new hires will have to be laid off.

Late last spring, Como Taperia found themselves in a similar predicament when the City of Vancouver was seemingly stalling on giving the restaurant's sidewalk patio the green light. Immediately after meeting with fellow restaurateur and Vancouver City Councillor Michael Wiebe, Como Taperia received assurance their patio permit was approved, and the restaurant was able to serve guests outdoors. 

That patio, however, can only accommodate 12 guests. 

"It's a fraction of our business," added Layton. "We'd be losing money if we just opened those three tables."

For the past few months, Como Taperia's indoor dining room was able to seat 38 people - that's 20 people fewer than its normal capacity.

"In the short term for now it is better for us just to close," said Layton.

While patio dining won't be available for at least the next three weeks, Layton says Como will open its onsite "mercado," a specialty grocery shop showcasing Spanish and other European products, Thursdays and Fridays. The restaurant will also offers its "Como To Go" takeout boxes on those days as well. 

Layton said if the restrictions are just for three weeks then "it's only three weeks," but any longer could jeopardize the future of the restaurant - a future Layton and the Como team are hoping for.