Earls Restaurants said it was “deeply concerned” Wednesday after a video circulating on social media appeared to show over ten guests gathered at and around a table at one of the company’s restaurants in Edmonton, despite COVID-19 relaunch rules.
The current rules in Alberta allow up to six people to be seated at one table, who must be from the same family. Those who live alone may dine with two other close contacts.
“We are deeply concerned by a video shared on social media showing a group gathered together at our Edmonton Crossroads location on the evening of Feb. 9,” said a statement from the company’s chief restaurant officer Mark Hladik.
“Earls can confirm that a group of guests did indeed gather at one table for a brief period, after initially being seated separately in accordance with health guidelines. This group was asked to disperse by a server on shift and the guests complied with this request.”
The video was tweeted out Wednesday morning and has since been viewed thousands of times.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw said during her daily COVID-19 update on Wednesday that while she hasn’t herself seen the video, situations like this could lead to increased spread and ultimately hurt Alberta’s reopening plan.
“While people may feel that opening restaurants is an opportunity to go back to interacting to the way they may have a year ago today, that is not the case,” Hinshaw said.
“It is a collective responsibility for everyone to follow the rules… unfortunately if those rules are not followed, there can be consequences for those individual locations such as fines, and in the worst-case scenario those places may need to be closed.
“Overall, if there’s many locations that don’t follow the rules, we could see increased spread and that could lead to having to have increased restrictions again.”
Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson also responded to the video Wednesday.
“Recent video footage of patrons, spreading on social media, essentially partying in restaurants this week is worrisome,” Iveson said.
“This virus is not a joke. It is not a hoax. Edmontonians have died — far too many already.
“It is heartless and it is cruel to treat their deaths and the sacrifices of Edmontonians who have diligently followed Public Health orders to do their part to protect our health-care system as if they mean nothing, by flouting these important rules that are here for our safety.”
Alberta Health Services told Global News that there have been three complaints submitted related to the Earls Edmonton Crossroads restaurant, but as of Wednesday afternoon, no orders have been issued.
“A public health inspector visited the restaurant this morning and met with management to address the concerns, and to ensure the business follows all public health and CMOH restrictions,” Kerry Williamson with AHS said in an email.
The current rules around restaurants under the Step 1 of Alberta’s reopening plan not only include the six-person limit, but establishments also have to collect contact information from one person from each dining party. Tables and those sitting at them must be kept two metres away from each other.
“We take the health and safety of our guests, and the protocols of Alberta Health Services very seriously,” Hladik said. “We have opened an extensive investigation into this incident and will be taking steps with staff involved.”
Earls, which first opened in Edmonton in 1982, now runs 25 different locations of its restaurants in Alberta.
Earls Crossroads is located at 4250 Calgary Trail Northwest in Edmonton.
–with a file from Heide Pearson, Global News