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Letter: My New West restaurant is in danger of closing with sudden indoor dining ban

Restaurant owner had just brought in big order of food that can't be sold
Alejandro Diaz owns two restaurants in New West. Record file photo


And open letter to B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix:

Thank you for taking the time to review my letter. As you know, I am an owner of two restaurants in New Westminster. Though I have many other interests in our community, today I am writing as a business owner. My businesses are two restaurants, el Santo and Butcher’s Table.

Let me begin by saying that I understand the difficult situation the government is in locally managing a global pandemic. Sacrifices have to be made. Suffering will occur. I think that you would agree with me that one of the responsibilities of government is to ensure that the sacrifices made are as evenly distributed throughout the community as possible.

Two ways to help make the distribution of sacrifice as equitable as possible are with financial support and timely communication. One of my restaurants, el Santo, has been in business for over 5 years. We have had to lay off over 90% of our staff. I am comforted that funds are available for those staff members to avail themselves of through application. I can tell you from what they tell me, in many cases it is a life saver for them. El Santo itself has access to some programs that allow us to barely get by. We appreciate the help. 

Butcher’s Table is a newer establishment and is not eligible for government grants. Butcher’s Table came into being after we had to close Amaranthus due to the first round of restaurant closures. We lost a significant amount of money closing Amaranthus, but we still had a lease to honour. We created Butcher’s Table after some market research to help recuperate losses, and with hope, eventually become a viable business. Despite unfavourable conditions, we felt very positive about Butcher’s Table’s future. Butcher’s Table is in danger of closing now. We could really use some program to help us weather the storm.

As to the issue of communication, the announcement of partial restaurant closures could not have come at a worse time. (Let me correct that, the announcement before New Year’s Eve was equally bad.) 

The day that this recent announcement came we had just received a huge order costing thousands of dollars to prepare us for a busy long weekend. Our coolers are full of perishable food products that we are in danger of losing. With even 1 or 2 days’ notice restaurants in the province could have altered the order to reflect the need to partially close. Re-opening is also very complicated. I am hoping there will be communication updates during the next three weeks so restaurants have some time to prepare to re-open.

I do not want to see Butcher’s Table, or el Santo have to go the same way Amaranthus and so many other businesses had to go through. As you know, we are more than just a business to the community. Our sense of responsibility to the community goes beyond food service. We need your help. Please advocate to have some process for younger businesses to have access to support. It doesn’t have to be huge amounts. We just need to get by until operations can be normalized.

I would welcome a discussion with you to provide more details concerning particulars of what is needed. Again, I appreciate the challenges of governing during these times. Stay safe!

Alejandro Diaz, New Westminster