Edmonton restaurants frustrated by Alberta's tougher COVID-19 restrictions

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Edmonton restaurant owners are voicing frustration over once again bearing the “brunt” of new COVID-19 restrictions, with some deciding to close completely for the next three weeks.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced some of the province’s strongest measures to date on Tuesday. The public health measures include prohibiting outdoor patios and closing salons and barbershops starting at 11:59 p.m. on Sunday. The measures are in place for communities with more than 50 cases per 100,000 people and with 30 or more active cases, which includes Edmonton and Calgary.

The new restrictions, which are to be in place for three weeks, were in response to a massive surge in cases in the province, resulting in Alberta having the highest active per-capita rate in Canada at 534 per 100,000.

Wayne Jones, the owner of Rocky Mountain Icehouse, said it has been frustrating and costly to have to constantly open and close.


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Jones has spent thousands of dollars on his patios including about $20,000 in order to winterize them. While restaurants can provide takeout and delivery, he said that it wouldn’t be enough revenue to cover his expenses so he has decided to close for the next three weeks.

“We’re following all of the rules and doing everything we can to provide a safe environment,” Jones said. “Every time I shut down it costs us a lot of money. It seems like we still get the brunt of the force. Maybe it is because we’re brick and mortar and that’s something people can see. They see people gathering on patios whereas maybe they can’t see them in their backyards or however it is being transmitted.”

He said during that three-week period he will have to temporarily lay off his staff of about 15 people. Jones said he hopes the government will provide more of a warning in the future so restaurants can better prepare.

Bianca Condren, a manager of DOSC on 104 Street, said the restaurant spent more than $1,500 on new heaters and several thousand dollars on new furniture to enhance their patio.

“It’s not like you can return things that you’ve already kind of used (in order) to try to get that money or that revenue back,” Condren said. “We are gonna end up using it eventually, but it does (put a) hole in our pockets for the time being until the restrictions ease.”

With rent being more than $25,000 a month, she said they were weighing their options if it would be feasible to stay open for take-out.


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Cherie Klassen, the executive director of the Old Strathcona Business Association, said many restaurants were relying on the revenue from patios since take-out and delivery doesn’t provide much. She said the province has to offer more assistance whenever new measures are announced.

“We’ve seen businesses over the last week or two invest tens of thousands of dollars to make their patios as comfortable and as big as possible,” Klassen said. “That is something that is going to be very frustrating and very stressful for many of our businesses (where) that was their only form of income.”

Klassen said businesses understand something had to be done to curb the spike in cases but wished the government did it in February when the retail and restaurant season is slow.

The Alberta Hospitality Association in a statement said it is disappointed and frustrated by the restrictions as the province did not provide a clear plan on how the industry will be supported. The association called on the province to provide assistance with costs.

Kenney told reporters on Wednesday the province is providing financial assistance to small and medium-sized businesses, including a $10,000 grant for businesses that have experienced at least a 30 per cent decline in revenue over the past year.

Restaurants weren’t the only business owners worried by the new restrictions.

Mikka Bitangcol-Gaspar, co-owner of Studio Blunt, said she’s concerned about the long-term success of her business and will have to lay off her staff for the third time within a year.

“As a business, we’re struggling and then you have the closure, and you’re like, oh, how do we do that,” said Bitangcol-Gaspar. “We still need to pay rent for a business for the next three weeks. It’s amazing that lots of businesses are able to.”

She said she has been taking on extra costs already in order to provide masks and increase sanitization.



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