UPDATED: Coast businesses continue to make changes in face of COVID

Local entrepreneur launches fundraiser to help workers

There are more changes at local grocery stores and new rules for cannabis retailers as B.C. businesses continue to adjust to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Groceries 

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IGA Gibsons announced March 24 that is was cancelling the special hour set aside for seniors on Wednesdays and Fridays. 

In online updates manager Bob Hoy said the store was becoming very crowded during that hour. “I am saddened to announce that our seniors day will be cancelled until further notice. This started out to be a difficult decision but has gotten easier as the days have gone by,” Hoy wrote. “I see no reason for those at the most risk to be out in large groups right now shopping in bulk when in reality our supply is limited. These times are tough and these decisions have to be firm and forthright for the benefit of all.” 

The store has cut its regular hours to 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and is now limiting the number of shoppers allowed in at any given time to 50. The store is also closing its washroom to the public and has suspended the sale of bulk foods and bulk coffee, fresh seafood and deli items. 

Hoy told Coast Reporter the situation is changing quickly for local grocers and he and his staff are having to wear a lot of different hats. 

He also said “front-line cashiers and the grocery department have been pushed to the limit,” but all the employees have been making extraordinary efforts to serve the community. 

“Everybody who comes to work right now is at risk, but they’re thinking this is their job and they feel it’s their time and they’re stepping up to help the community, and the community needs food,” he said. 

Hoy also said initiatives like the delivery partnership with Persephone Brewing and having volunteers help fill online orders have been working well. 

A second Gibsons grocery has now entered a similar partnership. Tapworks Brewing and SuperValu have started offering a delivery service that will allow customers to purchase groceries and beer. 

SuperValu remains open early for seniors every day from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. and has not yet announced any changes to its policy on the number of shoppers in the store or its usual 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. opening hours. 

The Independent Grocer in Sechelt has now installed safety screens at its cashier stations and reduced its overall hours to 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. with 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. daily set aside for seniors and 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. reserved for health care workers and first responders. 

Claytons in Sechelt also announced March 23 that it was going to limit shoppers in the store to no more than 50 at one time. The store now plans to close at 7 p.m. Fridays instead of the usual 9 p.m. Its special seniors’ shopping hour is 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. 

IGA Wilson Creek is limiting the number of people in the store and has also announced it is reducing its overall hours to 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. with the exceptions of the seniors’ shopping hour from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. Wednesdays and Fridays. 

The Madeira Park IGA has also moved to limit shoppers in the store and effective March 25 reduced its hours to 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. with a seniors’ shopping hour from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. Wednesdays and Fridays.

Cannabis 

The province’s Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch has issued a new policy directive allowing licensed private cannabis retailers to take orders by phone or online. 

The notice accompanying the directive says, “In response to the unprecedented public health emergency in British Columbia related to COVID-19, this policy is also an effort to promote public health and safety by promoting social distancing guidelines ordered by the provincial health officer and reducing the time consumers spend in non-medical cannabis retail stores.” 

420 Hemp Shop in Sechelt has been telling customers it will be taking telephone orders only for the time being. 

The owners of Coastal Bay Cannabis in Gibsons told Coast Reporter they have decided to close temporarily, but will reassess the situation week-by-week and could reopen for limited hours if the situation improves.

Distilleries start sanitizer production 

The Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch also announced over the weekend that it is giving temporary authorization to distillers in the province to “manufacture alcohol-based hand sanitizer to help combat the COVID-19 pandemic.” 

“The flexibility shown by distillers to create much-needed hand sanitizing products demonstrates the leadership of B.C.’s agriculture sector and highlights the additional and unforeseen roles that B.C.’s food and beverage producers can play in an emergency response,” said Agriculture Minister Lana Popham. 

One Foot Crow in Gibsons and Bruinwood Estate Distillery in Roberts Creek have already started producing sanitizer. In an Instagram post March 22 One Crow said, “Joining the fight!” The company said proceeds from sanitizer sales will go to the Gibsons Food Bank. 

Fundraising 

A Gibsons business has launched a GoFundMe campaign to help local businesses and their workers as well as any workers facing layoffs. 

On the home page for Support Coastal, Martin DesRosiers of Beachcomber Coffee wrote, “We know many of you want to help and have asked how. Supporting local businesses directly where possible is the best way as our community relies on our small business owners and the people they employ. Many businesses will be faced with difficult times and we want to build a fund to help those in need.

“Many of you have already closed up shop and have been forced with layoffs… EI only covers 55 per cent of what people were earning, leaving a large portion of the population near or under the poverty line making it difficult to acquire basic necessities.”

You can donate to the campaign www.gofundme.com/support-coastal

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