(JR Slims/Instagram)

A new restaurant in downtown Victoria got a visit from police on the night they launched their Happy Hour special.

JR Slims, a new restaurant and bar that opened last month at the corner of Yates Street and Wharf Street, was the subject of brief controversy Thursday night after residents in the area complained to police about a ‘large party’ at the venue, allegedly taking place in contravention of COVID-19 safety guidelines.

However the restaurant’s Operating Partner, Andrew Ralph, says that was not the case.

“Last night, we did an all night Happy Hour, and for some reason the promotion got a lot of buzz and the place was full, but we stopped taking reservations once all the tables were full,” said Ralph in an interview with Victoria Buzz.

Ralph says the venue had about 60 guests at a time, but that this was not in contravention of COVID-19 guidelines for restaurants, as the space is large enough to accommodate that many people while still allowing groups of guests to maintain six feet of distance from each other.

See also: New rules announced for B.C. restaurants and bars as COVID-19 cases continue to surge

“The only issue we did have problems with was at the end of the night when people wanted to all leave at the same time,” Ralph admitted.

However, he said the issue was quickly resolved after staff began asking people to wait in their seats for their turn to leave the venue.

In a statement to Victoria Buzz, Victoria Police spokesperson Bowen Osoko said no violation tickets were issued after police attended the venue.

“Officers attended, noted the number of patrons, and educated bar management about the COVID restrictions. The patrons were cooperative and departed,” said Osoko.

Ralph says JR Slims is up to date with instating proper COVID-19 protocols in accordance with provincial health guidelines, including plexiglass barriers at the bar and at each table.

He says the restaurant’s Happy Hour drink service ended at 9:50 p.m. Thursday night, but people stayed until 11 p.m., which is in keeping with guidelines.

“This is something that was unexpected for us, and pleasurably enough that it was busy, but we wanted to make sure that we’re taking proper steps to make sure we were abiding by all guidelines and COVID rules,” said Ralph.

When asked to comment on those who called police on the restaurant Thursday night, Ralph says he wishes people would take time to learn what the COVID-19 guidelines are for the restaurant industry in B.C.

“We were fortunate to have a successful night due to our Happy Hour special, but that’s all it was. We don’t take walk-ins. We stop taking reservations after tables are full,” said Ralph.

“It got misconstrued because people were dressing up in Halloween costumes, so people thought it was a Halloween party. Obviously there was a young crowd, but if it was an older crowd I doubt anyone would say anything.”

The hospitality industry has been hit hard by COVID-19 restrictions, with 60 per cent of restaurants across the country expected to close permanently this winter.

In B.C., provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has instated new restrictions for bars and nightclubs as those venues proved to be sources of transmission over the past couple of months.

However she has repeatedly stated that transmission does not seem to be occurring at restaurants in B.C. and that businesses offering dine-in service have thus far been doing a good job of adhering to protocols.

Ralph supports the existing guidelines and says that while he wants his restaurant to be popular, the venue will continue following strict guidelines to keep people safe during the pandemic.

“We want to be successful but we want to make sure it’s a thing that all our locals like,” he said.

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