Big White

The operator of a restaurant at Big White has apologized for hosting a wild party that violated COVID-19 safety protocols. Resort management say they will cancel the restaurant's lease.

The operator of a Big White restaurant that hosted a wild party free from any apparent pandemic protocols isn't welcome back on the mountain next year.

"We're doing everything we can to terminate his lease," resort spokesman Michael J. Ballingall said Wednesday.

"We don't expect any difficulty doing so, because everything that went on in that business was against the rules, the protocols, WorkSafeBC regulations, public health orders, everything," Ballingall said.

Video widely shared on social media shows a large gathering of young people partying at the Charley Victoria's restaurant on Monday afternoon. People are shown without masks, standing close to one another, and dancing on tables throughout the establishment.

"What went on there was disgusting," Ballingall said. "It was just a blatant disregard for humanity."

Justin Reid, the operator of the restaurant, was in the first year of a three year lease with Big White. He apologized on Wednesday for hosting the party.

"I take full ownership for this ignorant decision that I made out of pure selfish frustration over the recent announcement, regarding COVID restrictions in our community," Reid wrote on the restaurant's Facebook page.

"My decision to let this happen was wrong," Reid said. "I take full accountability and accept all consequences of this poor decision."

After the province announced a ban on indoor dining to take effect Tuesday, Reid began selling food and alcohol for 50% off.

"The word spread like wildfire on social media," Ballingall said. "There were no protocols in place, nobody watching the door, nobody making sure people were wearing masks."

Alarmed by what was going on, Big White staff phoned the RCMP. Although it's located east of Kelowna, the resort is policed out of West Kelowna, and by the time police arrived things had settled down, Ballingall said.

Many of the young people seen in the video were hospitality workers who had been laid off earlier that day, Ballingall said. Many, perhaps most, would also have been vaccinated against COVID-19 since Interior Health said previously there was strong uptake among Big White workers at vaccination clinics held at the resort.

"But, 100%, none of those facts excuse what went on at that restaurant," Ballingall said. Big White has already fired some of the young people seen in the video for violation of employment agreements in which they promised to abide by COVID-19 protocols.

The ski season at Big White is scheduled to end April 11. Revenues at the resort are down 83% compared to last year, with losses in the "tens of millions of dollars", Ballingall said, because of travel restrictions that have limited use of the resort to people who live in the Central Okanagan.

While total visitor numbers are a fraction of normal, those with seasons' passes have used Big White much more than usual this year. In a typical year, a passholder skis or snowboards between 15 and 20 times each winter; this year, that number is close to 40.