Cooler weather brings more concern for some Calgary restaurant owners

Click to play video 'Pulling plug on patio season: Calgary restaurants prepare for tougher times' Pulling plug on patio season: Calgary restaurants prepare for tougher times
WATCH ABOVE: With this recent cooler weather and snowfall, patios around Calgary sit empty. It’s a huge hit to an already battered bottom line for restaurant owners, who sat down with Alberta Health Services officials Wednesday to talk about next steps. Lauren Pullen reports. – Oct 14, 2020

It may not be officially over, but many Calgary restaurants have decided to pull the plug on patio season.

The City of Calgary allowed restaurants to expand their patios onto sidewalks back in May — without having to pay any permit fees — in an effort to help boost business.

Read more: Coronavirus: Calgary to allow shops, restaurants to expand patios to allow for social distancing

According to multiple restaurant managers and owners, it worked.

The move was extended into the winter, with expanded patios allowed to stay open until two centimetres of snow accumulated and stuck.

Read more: Calgary city council approves extending fee relief for local businesses amid COVID-19

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But with temperatures dipping and even some early fall snow, some restaurant owners have shut down patios because not enough Calgarians are opting to sit outside.

Jeff Jamieson is on the board of the Alberta Hospitality Association (AHA) and also co-owner of Donna Mac restaurant.

He said closing outdoor patios will be a big blow to an already battered bottom line. He also said many people who aren’t comfortable dining inside restaurants would still eat outdoors, and that’s a large portion of revenue that’s now lost.

“We expect to see probably about a 35 per cent drop in our sales at Donna Mac, but it could be significantly worse for some of the larger patio businesses that were seeing more of those customers,” Jamieson said.

He and other representatives with the AHA had a meeting Wednesday with Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta Health Services executive director Mark Fehr and assistant deputy minister of economic development and tourism Michele Evans to talk about some of the concerns facing the restaurant industry.

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Alberta, the AHA pushed for clarity on if or when restrictions (such as curfews or closures) would be put in place.

“We (also) want to make sure that the hospitality industry isn’t being unnecessarily demonized in regards to the increase in (COVID-19) cases,” Jamieson said. “Very few have been linked directly to (Alberta) hospitality.”

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Overall, Jamieson said the meeting went well and the government was able to provide that clarity.

The AHA says restaurants are already trying to prepare amid the unpredictability of COVID-19, doing things like refocusing sales on take-out and delivery options.

But as we head into the colder months, Jamieson said the forecast isn’t bright for many restaurants already struggling to get by.

“We are expecting a lot more closures,” he said.