A local business leader said Sidney’s “complacent days are over” after warnings about possible COVID-19 exposures were issued this week.
Denny Warner, executive director of the Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce, made that comment Wednesday morning after Island Health alerted the public Tuesday afternoon to possible COVID-19 exposures at two Sidney eateries. One of them – 10 Acres Cafe & Market at the Sidney Pier Hotel & Spa – is at the very centre of the community and is a popular destination for tourists and locals alike. The other – Mary’s Bleue Moon Cafe near Victoria International Airport – is an iconic part of the local restaurant scene.
Warner said the recent exposures to COVID-19 are not unexpected. Low numbers of cases on the Island and the belief that Sidney was safe had lulled people into a false sense of security, he explained. “Businesses have to take their responsibility to protect customers seriously and visitors and residents have to take all appropriate steps to protect themselves from the virus.”
Island Health warned of possible COVID-19 exposures at 10 Acres Cafe & Market on Aug. 20 and 21 between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Possible exposures at Mary’s Bleue Moon Cafe include Aug. 21 between 4 and 9:15 p.m. and Aug. 22 between 9:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. and 5 to 10 p.m.
Mary’s Bleue Moon Cafe closed Tuesday evening for what it called a “deep cleaning and disinfecting” and remained closed Wednesday morning.
10 Acres Cafe & Market announced Tuesday on social media it would be closed through Wednesday for sanitation. “And out of an abundance of caution, our ‘10 Acres at The Pier’ restaurant in Sidney, will also be closed for service, for the same treatment,” it read.
Nick Hopkins, owner of Mary’s Bleue Moon Cafe confirmed a part-time employee tested positive. “We are working with [Island Health] and they believe the likelihood of transmission is very low given our practices,” he said. “At this point, they are not giving us any indication we should be worried. We have been advised we could stay open and continue to operate. We felt we should shut down and have a professional cleaning crew – which we use daily – come in and do a full, medical-grade sanitation of the entire area.”
Hopkins declined to say whether his employee was also working at 10 Acres Cafe & Market. “Due to confidentiality I can not comment on the employee in question,” he added.
Lisa Nordstrom, general manager at the Sidney Pier Hotel & Spa, said the business has contacted all hotel guests who stayed there during the possible exposures to let them know that there was a positive case.
“We have remained open for this entire time and worked very diligently with protocols and guidelines for how the hotel, spa and salon is managed during this.”
She noted anyone who visited the cafe should be aware and self-monitor for symptoms.
Richard Talbot, a long-time consultant for the Canadian retail industry, said the possible exposures “puts the kibosh on saying that we are a safe place to shop.”
Speaking with the Review earlier this week, Talbot had called for extra measures to be taken by local businesses. For example, in the cases of stores, patrons would be required to put on masks before entering.
“That would make those people who are dithering feel much more comfortable about coming here,” he said earlier this week. “We have a real opportunity to push that we are really safe or safe-as-you-can-get place. Compare it with what is going in downtown Victoria between the homelessness and COVID-19 and all the other problems, there is a competitive opportunity.”
That opportunity now appears to be gone, said Talbot, who fears that the community will suffer a loss of reputation against the backdrop of a fragile environment for many retailers and other businesses. “It is going to require a huge public relations effort.”
The Review reached out to management of the 10 Acres Restaurant Group but did not receive a reply by publication deadline.
Do you have a story tip? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.