FORT ST. JOHN, B.C – The local chamber of commerce is focusing on providing support for local restaurants and bars after the province banned indoor dining.

As of March 30th, eating inside a restaurant or bar is suspended until April 19th due to increased COVID-19 cases in the province.

“I just want to encourage everybody to do what they can for [local businesses]. It’s obviously hard times for a lot of people,” says Chuck Fowler, the Fort St. John and District Chamber of Commerce President.

In December, the chamber hired Russ Beerling, regional business liaison, to provide resources to the business community and support to stimulate recovery and growth through the pandemic.

For residents choosing to eat out, the chamber encourages picking up the order instead of using external delivery services.

“[Businessesl do lose a good percentage. I talked with [a restaurant owner] this morning, they said for them to use SkipTheDishes, it costs them about $2,000 a month. It comes right out of their bottom line. Plus, if you tip, the tips go to a SkipTheDishes [courier], not to to the restaurant itself.”

A lot of restaurants have been joining delivery services as a way to advertise themselves to the community, according to Beerling.

“I don’t want to cut down SkipTheDishes, but [businesses] jumping on the platform because they need to get their name out there.”

Executive Director Cheryl Montgomery and Beerling been reaching out to businesses to see if they need any assistance applying for funding.

“We’re making sure that we’re keeping our finger on the pulse of what the government is offering to businesses and then try to help businesses navigate how to get through [the funding process],” says Beerling.

According to Beerling, some businesses were declined funding for certain programs over the past year, but the government later changed eligibility requirements. The chamber has also been contacting businesses to inform them of the changes as they may now be eligible.

“I’ve also been working with Fran [Haughian] from [Community Futures Peace Liard] in Dawson Creek; she’s my equivalent in Dawson. Fran developed a Facebook page to show what restaurants are open and what hours. Cheryl is going to duplicate that [for Fort St. John],” says Beerling.

As March is the end of the fiscal year for the provincial and federal government, the chamber is awaiting announcements on funding extensions or new programs.