Calgary’s mayor is encouraging local eateries to keep their patios open into the fall and winter to help patrons with social distancing and to battle the economic hardships the restaurant industry is facing.
“I really am encouraging restaurants to get those (heat) lamps, you know even — it sounds silly but it works in lots of cold weather places — put blankets on the tables and keep those patios open as far into the season as we can,” Naheed Nenshi told reporters on Wednesday afternoon.
“Even though restaurants are doing a terrific job of managing physical distancing by and large within the restaurant, as the weather gets colder there’s always a concern that more indoor gatherings will lead to more spread (of COVID-19).”
In May, the City of Calgary approved a plan to allow shops and restaurants to expand their businesses onto sidewalks and streets to assist with social distancing.
Nenshi said the potential of keeping those temporarily expanded “pop-up” patios is something that will have to be determined on a case-by-case basis as traffic patterns change.
“By and large, most of those are taking away parking spots not driving spots, so I’m personally very happy to keep those in place as long as they’re practical and people are using them.”
At the end of August, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce released a report suggesting as many as 60 per cent of restaurants could close permanently in the next three months as they struggle to operate at reduced capacity.
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According to the report, 29 per cent of accommodation and food service establishments surveyed said they couldn’t operate at all with social distancing measures in place, and a further 31 per cent said they’d only be able to remain operational for up to 90 days with social distancing measures in effect.
Nenshi said the fall is the time for people to get used to wearing a mask.
“It’s not fun. I don’t like it — it fogs up my glasses — but it’s something we get used to. This our opportunity to really make sure that we’re in those really good habits and still enjoying as much as we can outdoors before we have to spend more time inside.”
A bylaw making face coverings mandatory in indoor public spaces and on public vehicles in the city went into effect on Aug. 1.
Nenshi said compliance has been “very, very good.”
“The vast majority of folks are complying. Our compliance levels on transit are very, very high, as well as in indoor places.”
Nenshi said the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Calgary shows that masking is helping slow the spread of the virus.
“While they’ve been growing a little bit, they have not grown at what we were modelling them to grow before the mask bylaw came in,” he said. “We’ve actually really kept the numbers down because there should be an exponential growth.”
Nenshi said he hopes Calgarians can practise good hygiene, wear masks and practise social distancing so governments don’t again have to close schools and local businesses.
“I’m hopeful that that will not happen as the weather turns.”