COVID-19: Businesses react to Alberta’s restrictions rewind limiting service at gyms, eateries

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Alberta businesses prepare for added COVID-19 restrictions
WATCH ABOVE: Jason Kenney announced more closures and restrictions on Tuesday as Alberta tries to get a handle on the rising COVID-19 cases. As Quinn Campbell reports, Lethbridge and area businesses say the constant unknown has become the new norm – Apr 7, 2021

As the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic takes hold in Alberta, it’s also the third time that gyms and restaurants will be forced to reduce services; this time, less than 60 days after last reopening their doors.

Premier Jason Kenney announced on Tuesday that certain restrictions were being reintroduced across the province by the end of the week to address rising COVID-19 case numbers and variants of concern.

As of Wednesday, gyms were once again limited to just one-on-one fitness with trainers — with individual and group fitness banned again — and by Friday at noon, indoor dining at restaurants is not allowed.

Kieth Carlson owns a restaurant called Roy’s Place in Claresholm and says he wasn’t surprised to see the province tighten up restrictions again.

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“We’ve seen the issues crop up,” he said. “We see people come in and you believe wholeheartedly that they are not from the same cohort, however, you take the contact information, you ask the questions and of course everyone’s from the same household.

“Our clientele aren’t doing themselves any favours by not following the rules; that’s what helps lead us to where we’re at today.”

Restaurants were given the green light to provide dine-in service on Feb. 8, and Carlson said his business had just returned to a full complement of staff on the payroll.

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Now, he’ll once again be forced to cut back hours for his employees.

“Honestly, the toughest part is the commitment we try to make to our employees,” he said.

“I’ve had good people that have actually left the industry because they saw the third wave coming, and they got out beforehand.”

Tyler Harvey owns the Canadian Brewhouse in Lethbridge and said he too has had a hard time disappointing hardworking staff.

“You know, when you’ve got someone asking, ‘Why am I not being brought back? What did I do wrong?’ You know, those kind of questions tug at your heart,” he said.

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This time around, restaurants have been given the green light to provide patio service, and Harvey said he feels for those businesses that don’t have an outdoor space available.

Patio diners will still be limited to tables with members of the same household only, and customers must be spaced two metres apart or separated by an impermeable barrier.

While the Canadian Brewhouse has the advantage of a large patio, Harvey said the often volatile southern Alberta weather means it won’t be a reliable income source.

“What is this going to look like?” he asked. “I schedule a bunch of servers, bartenders, all our support team that go around cleaning the restaurant on a regular basis, and then it starts raining — or we get those 90-kilometre (per hour) winds… so all of a sudden we’re closed?”

Other than patio service, restaurants will be limited to takeout, delivery and curbside pickup.

Fitness centres will also be feeling the crunch of reintroduced restrictions.

For Vanessa Bishop, the owner of Unite YQL, the news means another transition for staff and clients.

“I thought for sure we would have spin going by March,” she said.

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The gym owner said she and her staff worked hard to provide a safe fitness experience.

“We had everything — kind of ducks in a row — as February went along, now it’s just expect the unexpected,” Bishop said.

Kenney said Tuesday that once half of Albertans have immunity, some restrictions will be lifted.

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