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Calgary restaurants and bars raise concerns about enforcement of COVID-19 health measures

Click to play video: 'Alberta restaurant owners concerned about enforcement of COVID-19 health measures' Alberta restaurant owners concerned about enforcement of COVID-19 health measures
WATCH ABOVE: New targeted measures in COVID-19 hot spots, including Calgary, took effect Friday, but questions remain about how they will be enforced. Adam MacVicar reports.

Alberta restaurants and bars can still serve people outdoors, but are worried about how they’re supposed to enforce provincial health measures already in place.

Although there were no new restrictions announced for restaurants on Thursday, Premier Jason Kenney said his government will work with bars and restaurants to help step up efforts to make sure they’re enforcing the rules.

As part of the current measures, restaurants are allowed to serve tables of up to six people from the same household, and up to two out-of-household contacts for people who live alone.

Read more: 2,007 new COVID-19 cases recorded as targeted Alberta restrictions take effect Friday

But some restaurants and bars say the challenge of enforcing those rules on top of their current struggles may be too much for staff.

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“It really leaves a lot of onus on the restaurant team and the staff, and they don’t necessarily have a lot of extra staff right now,” said Chris Gallinger, the general manager of Bonterra Trattoria. “It’s been challenging already. I think this last round (of restrictions) is going to make it more so.”

Gallinger said his staff have been asking patrons whether they understand the current rules in place before they’re seated, but he said there are still questions about how eateries are supposed to prove people are telling the truth.

With limited seating available, Gallinger said restaurants are struggling while trying to adapt to the latest safety protocol and equipment required to make their establishments safe.

“A lot of restaurants are spending a lot of money making sure they have patios and their guests are looked after and are safe,” Gallinger said.

“I can assure you they’re spending more on those patios than they’re making right now, so it’s really hard to see that and get new restrictions that are going to make it even harder to make that success.”

Read more: COVID-19: How will Alberta health-care workers prioritize patients amid an ICU surge?

According to Alberta Health, officials met with restaurant owners and stakeholders on Friday morning to discuss enforcement.

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“We will be working with them to provide more information and work together to support compliance and enforcement,” Alberta Health spokesperson Tom McMillan said in a statement.

Ernie Tsu, the owner of Trolley 5 Brewpup and the president of the Alberta Hospitality Association, was in the meeting and said he hopes efforts result in more clarity.

“Our hope is that the guidance is written out clearly and far more defined, not just for our industry, but for the public as well,” he told Global News.

Tsu said staff safety is the main concern with enforcement as some customers have been hostile when it comes to health measures.

An update is expected in the coming days, according to Alberta Health.

Curfew and Protests

The latest health measures in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19 open the door for municipalities to institute curfews.

Curfews could apply to jurisdictions with active case rates of 1,000 per 100,000 people or more, and municipalities must request them.

Despite the fact Calgary hasn’t reached that threshold yet, the city’s mayor said he isn’t sold on the idea. He isn’t ruling it out either.

“I’m not entirely convinced that curfews — as we get into long summer nights and we want people to get outside and get some fresh air — is a specific enough tool,” Naheed Nenshi said.

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“But I will certainly look at the evidence to do it, and as always, I will not hesitate to do what needs to be done to keep people safe.”

Read more: Banff, Fort McMurray await details before deciding on COVID-19 curfews

Nenshi said he understands Calgarians’ frustration with the pandemic response but reiterated that the infection rate in the city is the worst it’s been since COVID-19 cases began to spread last March.

He told Global News that he has expressed his opinions about enforcement of the rules to the Calgary Police Service, as protests against health measures are slated to continue this weekend.

The mayor cannot direct action by CPS, but said the situation is “maddening.”

“My opinion is that I want to see much harder enforcement on the ring leaders of this bad behaviour,” Nenshi said.

Deputy Chief Chad Tawfik told reporters that officers will follow through on enforcing the health measures but only when it is safe to do so for both the public and police.

Enforcement measures will be focused on repeat offenders and organizers of events, CPS said.

“We want you to know that we are enforcing the orders when and where it’s legally and safe to do so,” Tawfik said. “We will follow through.”

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