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Lethbridge businesses react to new COVID-19 restrictions

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WATCH ABOVE: Lethbridge businesses are reacting to new COVID-19 restrictions announced Tuesday as Alberta declared a public health emergency for the second time since the pandemic hit the province. Taz Dhaliwal has more on the local reaction as businesses try to navigate these unprecedented times – Nov 25, 2020

As local businesses try to navigate new COVID-19 restrictions, one store owner said she’d rather endure the restrictions than close down her shop.

“The limit capacity going into our busiest sale season is a little bit hard, but I’d rather be able to be open and have that happen,” said Kara Engleson, owner of, Splurge & Co, a retail store in downtown Lethbridge.

On Tuesday, the Government of Alberta announced that effective this Friday, most retail businesses may remain open with capacity limited to 25 per cent of the occupancy set under the Alberta Fire Code.

Read more: Alberta enacts 2nd COVID-19 state of public health emergency. Here’s what it means

Engleson is one of many business owners trying to figure out what a 25 per cent capacity limit would look like within the parameters of her store.

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On Wednesday, the City of Lethbridge said the new directive resulted in many calls to the Lethbridge Fire Department.

The city is praising the many “dedicated local business owners and operators for being diligent and working hard to comply with these new guidelines.”

City officials also say the local fire prevention team is working with the provincial government to get more information on how business owners can calculate their occupancy limits ahead of the nearing deadline.

Lethbridge Mayor Chris Spearman sent out a statement on Wednesday partly reading, “Local businesses continue to amaze us with their entrepreneurial spirit, pivoting with every new guideline,”

The statement goes on to say, “As we move into December, I would ask that everyone be very diligent in following all of the public health orders and if you can, safely shop local this holiday season – our small businesses need our support now, more than ever.

“Most importantly, be thoughtful of the health and safety of everyone around you so we can protect our most vulnerable during this critical time in the pandemic,” the statement read.

Engleson said she has the capacity to sell her merchandise online, which allows her to still make sales while her retail shop is closed.

However, she is concerned about the many small local businesses which do not have that ability and urges everyone to shop local this holiday season.

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Also in the Lethbridge downtown area, Mocha Local launched their new farmer’s market store on Wednesday, the owner confesses it certainly is one of the most interesting and difficult times to be opening.

“Now with these restrictions, we’re concerned about how it’s going to affect us, we are zoned to have 50 people in here, so we would be able to have 12 at any time, including us,” said Angel Harper, co-owner of both Mocha Local and the Mocha Cabana Bistro.

“Because we’re just going to be open a few days a week, I think we’re going to be okay,” Harper adds.

She too is worried about her fellow small business owners in the region, with some struggling to make ends meet during these tumultuous times as safety restrictions become heightened.

Although, Harper notes saving lives is of the utmost importance and in the interest of safety, the co-owner said they will be shutting down the dining portion of the bistro.

“We feel the right thing to do for our community, for our business, and our staff, is to close the restaurant for dine-in and to just be open for take-out and delivery.”

Harper goes on to say when it comes to a 65 per cent subsidy the federal government is offering to businesses that have lost 70 per cent of their revenue, she doesn’t see the benefit as helpful since most businesses would be closing down completely anyhow once their losses drop that drastically.

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Across the city, the Cornerstone Funeral Home is getting ready to adapt, once again as new restrictions have also been announced for the funeral industry, limiting services to 10 people.

“Numerous families that we were actively serving, that have services in the immediate future, have had to alter their plans significantly,” said Travis Zentner, business manager at the Cornerstone Funeral Home.

“Families that we are newly serving as of today are under a great amount of stress because many families, even just immediate family is sometimes over 10 people, let alone extended family and those who wanted to come together to grieve as a family, as a community,” Zentner added.

He said a ban on indoor social gatherings in any setting announced yesterday is also heavily impacting people’s ability to mourn at this time as many people draw on their sometimes large family units and community members for support.

Zentner goes on to say the funeral home has been live-streaming their services, and even offers the opportunity to send electronic condolences.

Although, it may not be the same as being in-person with loved ones, the funeral home hopes its online services can still somewhat help ease the pain of those mourning at this time.