B.C.’s restaurant sector has a simple, direct response to the Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry’s decision – announced only one day ahead of time – to ban alcohol sales from 8 p.m. on New Year’s Eve to 9 a.m. the next day.
“We are profoundly disappointed because she has left a trail of disaster by making this decision,” said Ian Tostenson, president/CEO of the BC Restaurant and Food Services Association. “The decision was arbitrary, and the timing of it is terrible because it’s going to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars – if not millions. And it was unnecessary.
“Shame on Dr. Henry this time,” he concluded.
The ban was announced in a hastily called news conference on Wednesday afternoon – a day where provincial officials previously said they would have issued a press release for its daily COVID-19 update rather than holding a press briefing.
Instead, Henry and B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix announced the ban at the event roughly 29 hours before it was to come into effect. The ban’s purpose, Henry said, is to decrease the late-night consumption of alcohol that leads to “risky behaviour” such as table-hopping and social gatherings outside of individual households – which, Henry said, has been proven to aid the spread of COVID-19.
Tostenson said that the announcement caught the entire industry by surprise because there was “zero consultation” from the province that this ban was under consideration.
“We all knew it’s going to be New Year’s Eve tomorrow; it’s not new,” he said. “We could have thought about this ahead of time. Industry could have worked with Dr. Henry to develop a plan… This didn’t need to happen.”
At the press conference, Henry said in response to a question about the last-minute nature of this decision that the NYE alcohol sales ban was actually under consideration “for some time” and that she felt it was something that needed to be done given what she has seen and heard about people’s New Year’s celebration plans.
She added the 8 p.m. time was actually decided upon with restaurants in mind.
“I know that many restaurants are planning two sittings, and the second sitting usually happens at around 7 to 7:30 p.m.,” Henry said. “So this does give people the opportunity to order wine with their meals… We tried to time it so that restaurants can have two sittings and provide food service, so we hope it’s not going to impact those restaurants who are doing a great job of keeping people safe.”
That explanation, however, does not fly with Tostenson or B.C.’s restaurant owners.
“In a lot of restaurants, 7:30 p.m. is the first sitting,” Tostenson said, adding that most restaurants have second sittings around 8 p.m. or later – past the newly imposed deadline.
One easy solution, he countered, would have been to set the deadline one hour later at 9 p.m. to cover the vast majority of restaurants’ second sittings – something that restaurant owners would have told Henry and the province if given the chance.
“We have a restaurant downtown that has reservations for 500 people – mostly couples – spread out over two sittings for NYE,” Tostenson said. “The second sitting starts at 8 p.m., and now they are calling guests to get everyone to come in an hour earlier. That won’t work with a lot of guests, so we can see as many as 50% cancelling. If you consider an average of $100 per table – and that’s a pretty light NYE bill – you have just cancelled about $25,000 in sales at just one restaurant.
“If we kept alcohol sales open until 9 p.m., that same restaurant would have been able to retain roughly 80% of their business on that night. That’s how simple it was with just a one-hour difference; but Dr. Henry doesn’t know that because she doesn’t run restaurants. Had we collaborated with Dr. Henry, we would have been able to explain it to her.”
Henry, for her part, said the 8 p.m. time is set in stone.
“Food is perfectly fine, but last call needs to be at 8 o’clock,” she said. “… What we are concerned about is the people who want to stay out later and consume alcohol – which leads to behaviours that would put restaurants and other patrons at risk.”
Tostenson remains miffed, however, that no one from Henry’s office or the province gave the industry any direct contact – even on Wednesday, the day of the announcement. With Henry noting she is already eyeing potential issues with upcoming gathering dates like St. Patrick’s Day, Tostenson said what happened this time cannot happen again.
“Unless you want the entire industry to go insolvent, you can’t have 24-hour decisions going forward,” he said. “If we had a chance to consult with the province weeks ahead of time, Dr. Henry may have still said it has to be an 8 p.m. deadline. In that case, we can at least tell people that – for reasons that we understand – the industry will comply. And that still gives us two or three weeks to plan.
“Now, things are in chaos. We fully support the health objectives, and we’ve always supported Dr. Henry. But this could have all been avoided by simple consultation with an industry that’s determined to do the right thing.”
World Bank sees ‘significant’ inflation risk from high energy prices
Energy Prices are expected to inch up in 2022 after surging more than 80% in 2021, fueling significant near-term risks to global inflation in many developing countries, the World Bank said in its latest Commodity Markets Outlook on Thursday.
The multilateral development bank said energy prices should start to decline in the second half of 2022 as supply constraints ease, with non-energy prices such as agriculture and metals also expected to ease after strong gains in 2021.
“The surge in energy prices poses significant near-term risks to global inflation and, if sustained, could also weigh on growth in energy-importing countries,” said Ayhan Kose, chief economist and director of the World Bank’s Prospects Group, which produces the Outlook report.
“The sharp rebound in commodity prices is turning out to be more pronounced than previously projected. Recent volatility in prices may complicate policy choices as countries recover from last year’s global recession.”
The International Monetary Fund, in a separate blog https://blogs.imf.org/2021/10/21/surging-energy-prices-may-not-ease-until-next-year, said it expected energy prices to revert to “more normal levels” early next year when heating demand ebbs and supplies adjust. But it warned that uncertainty remained high and small demand shocks could trigger fresh price spikes.
The World Bank noted that some commodity prices rose to or exceeded levels in 2021 not seen since a spike a decade earlier.
Natural gas and coal prices, for instance, reached record highs amid supply constraints and rebounding demand for electricity, although they are expected to decline in 2022 as demand eases and supply improves, the bank said.
It warned that further price spikes could occur in the near-term given current low inventories and persistent supply bottlenecks. Other risk factors included extreme weather events, the uneven COVID-19 recovery and the threat of more outbreaks, along with supply-chain disruptions and environmental policies.
Higher food prices were also driving up food-price inflation and raising questions about food security in several developing countries, it said.
The bank projected crude oil prices would reach $74/bbl in 2022, buoyed by strengthening demand from a projected $70/bbl in 2021, before easing to $65/bbl in 2023.
The use of crude oil as a substitute for natural gas presented a major upside risk to the demand outlook, although higher energy prices may start to weigh on global growth.
The bank forecast a 5% drop in metals prices in 2022 after a 48% increase in 2021. It said agricultural prices were expected to decline modestly next year after jumping 22% this year.
It warned that changing weather patterns due to climate change also posed a growing risk to energy markets, potentially affecting both demand and supply.
It said countries could benefit by accelerating installation of renewable energy sources and by cutting their dependency on fossil fuels.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; editing by Diane Craft)
U.S. FAA seeks new minimum rest periods for flight attendants between shifts
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is proposing to require flight attendants receive at least 10 hours of rest time between shifts after Congress had directed the action in 2018, according to a document released on Thursday.
Airlines for America, a trade group representing major carriers including American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and others, had previously estimated the rule would cost its members $786 million over 10 years for the 66% of U.S. flight attendants its members employ, resulting from things like unpaid idle time away from home and schedule disruptions.
Aviation unions told the FAA the majority of U.S. flight attendants typically do receive 10 hours of rest from airlines but urged the rule’s quick adoption for safety and security reasons.
Under existing rules, flight attendants get at least 9 hours of rest time but it can be as little as 8 hours in certain circumstances.
“Flight attendants serve hundreds of millions of passengers on close to 10 million flights annually in the United States,” the FAA said, adding that they “perform safety and security functions while on duty in addition to serving customers.”
It cited reports about the “potential for fatigue to be associated with poor performance of safety and security related tasks,” including in 2017, when a flight attendant reported almost causing the gate agent to deploy an emergency exit slide, which was attributed to fatigue and other issues.
The FAA estimated the regulation could prompt the industry to hire another 1,042 flight attendants and cost $118 million annually. If hiring assumptions were cut in half, it said, that would cut estimated costs by over 30%.
After the FAA published an advance notice of the planned rules in 2019, Delta announce it would mandate the 10-hour rest requirement by February 2020.
FAA Administrator Steve Dickson is testifying at a U.S. House Transportation subcommittee hearing on Thursday.
House Transportation Committee chairman Peter DeFazio said on Wednesday that it was “unacceptable” to delay the FAA adopting the flight attendant rest rule and mandating secondary flight deck barriers to better protect the cockpits on all newly manufactured airliners.
Attorneys at the FAA “need a little poke” to move faster on rules when ordered by Congress, DeFazio said on Thursday at the hearing. “Do not screw around with it for three years… you just do it.”
Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants representing 50,000 workers at 17 airlines, said the rule was critical.
“Flight attendant fatigue is real. COVID has only exacerbated the safety gap with long duty days, short night, and combative conditions on planes,” she said. “Congress mandated 10 hours irreducible rest in October 2018, but the prior administration put the rule on a process to kill it.”
During the pandemic, flight attendants have dealt with records numbers of disruptive, occasionally violent passenger incidents, with the FAA citing 4,837 unruly passenger reports, including 3,511 for refusing to wear a mask since Jan. 1.
The FAA proposes to make the new flight attendant rest rules final 30 days after it publishes its final rules.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; editing by Jason Neely and Bill Berkrot)
Bitcoin price hits all-time high, one day after U.S. ETF debut – Global News
The world’s leading cryptocurrency was up 3.30 per cent, trading at US$66,364.72, after reaching a record of US$67,016.50, topping the US$64,895.22 hit on April 14 this year.
Tuesday was the first day of trading for the ProShares Bitcoin Strategy ETF — a development market participants say is likely to drive investment into the digital asset.
The ETF closed up 2.59 per cent at US$41.94 from its opening price of US$40.88 on Tuesday and continued its ascent on Wednesday, last up 3.76 per cent at US$43.52.
The Valkyrie Bitcoin Strategy ETF, expected to debut on the Nasdaq Wednesday, appeared to be delayed after its prospectus was amended in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. A person familiar with the matter said the Nasdaq expects the ETF to launch on Thursday, but that has not been confirmed yet.
El Salvador becomes 1st country to adapt Bitcoin as legal tender
Trading appeared to be dominated by smaller investors and high-frequency trading firms, analysts said, noting the absence of large block trades indicated that institutions were likely staying on the sidelines.
James Quinn, managing partner at Q9 Capital, a Hong Kong-based cryptocurrency private wealth manager, said the launch of the new product was “meaningful” for bitcoin.
Theoretically, any licensed brokerage firm in the United States which wants to take on this ETF can do so as easily as any other ETF, which “should make it available to a lot of folks,” said Quinn.
While the ETF is based on bitcoin futures, Quinn said the trades and hedges underpinning the ETF means activity will flow into the spot market and the bitcoin price.
Crypto ETFs have launched this year in Canada and Europe amid surging interest in digital assets. VanEck is also among fund managers pursuing U.S.-listed ETF products, although Invesco on Monday dropped its plans for a futures-based ETF.
Ether, the world’s No. 2 cryptocurrency, was up 3.63 per cent on the day at US$4,018.75, after hitting a high of US$4,080, nearing its record high of US$4,380 reached on May 12.
© 2021 Reuters
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