Hospitality industry feels targeted by latest COVID restrictions – Calgary Sun

Members of Calgary’s restaurant and bar industry say they’re feeling targeted by Alberta’s latest COVID-19 public health measures, 18 months into a pandemic that has seen them cope with varying closures.
Premier Jason Kenney announced a variety of public health measures aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19 on Friday. Among those initiatives are a provincewide mask mandate in all indoor, public places as well as a liquor curfew that will see licensed establishments ceasing alcohol sales at 10 p.m. Bars, restaurants, lounges and other food and drink settings will be allowed to remain open beyond the curfew.
Unvaccinated people are also being asked to limit their close contacts to 10 people.
Leslie Echino, owner of Annabelle’s Kitchen and Bar Annabelle as well as a co-founder of the Alberta Hospitality Association, said she knew restrictions would be coming due to rising cases and hospitalizations from COVID-19 but that the curfew sends the message that bars are the only source of transmission.
“It does feel like the blame is getting put on restaurants and bars,” said Echino. “The fear I think, for a lot of us is what happened last year. Curfews don’t work. At 10 p.m., everybody’s going to go to the streets or go to people’s homes, where nobody is policing that.”
She said she would have rather have seen different restrictions that didn’t affect openings, such as keeping people at their tables. Echino said she had kept her downtown wine bar closed for most of the summer due to it being a small space and had just recently reopened it. Now, she expects it to remain closed.
“We were hoping people were going back to work and you know, people would be going out doing business meetings. We’re all doing everything we should, which is safety and vaccinations, and then it’s a bit of a slap in the face for sure,” said Echino.
The food and drink industry has seen various levels of restrictions around when they could open for different services. As a result, staff have exited the industry and left employers scrambling to open their doors when they are allowed to. Echino said she’s worried she may have to lay people off moving forward due to ongoing uncertainty around the pandemic.
Jordan Sorrenti, who owns Paddy’s BBQ and Brewery in Calgary, said his business won’t be affected as much as others that cater to late-night customers, but that his bottom line will be affected by people not wanting to risk catching COVID.
“We’ve just spent two months trying to fully staff our restaurants, and now, we’ve got to lay people off again and that’s just horrible,” said Sorrenti.
He said he would like to have seen the province implement a proof of vaccination requirement to have people enter restaurants, allowing everyone inside to feel safer.
Quebec, British Columbia, Manitoba and Ontario have all introduced similar initiatives and have seen the number of people signing up to get their vaccines increase.
The Calgary Chamber of Commerce released a statement Friday in response to the latest provincial measures, calling for a similar requirement.
“Calgary businesses continue to tell us a broadly implemented vaccination certification will help keep employees, customers, patrons and clients safe, and help prevent further lockdowns,” read the statement. “Vaccine certification will support safety and consumer confidence, all while encouraging those who remain eligible but unvaccinated to step forward to protect themselves and our community.”
The chamber said the provincial mask mandate was a positive move from the government.
Kenney said Friday he did not want to introduce the latest measures that he did — including introducing a one-time $100 preloaded debit card for anyone that gets their first or second dose of vaccine between Sept. 3 and Oct. 14 — but that they were necessary to protect the health-care system.
During the announcement Health Minister Tyler Shandro thanked the industry for continuing to adapt to health measures.
“I’d like to recognize our restaurant and hospitality operators and entrepreneurs, who have pivoted several times during the pandemic, and have shown exceptional resiliency,” said Shandro.
“We know that this is disruptive to your operations, and we appreciate your willingness to continue to adapt in the interest of protecting your staff and protecting your patrons. Unfortunately, we continue to see high case numbers and low immunization coverage among younger people and we need to take this step to reduce spread to protect our health-care system.”
Alberta Health Services president and CEO Dr. Verna Yiu said Friday 95 per cent of the province’s intensive care capacity was in use Friday.
dshort@postmedia.com
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