A Lethbridge restaurant owner has questions following an announcement from Premier Jason Kenney on Thursday.
“We’re all in a state of, ‘What is this going to look like?'” said Angel Harper, co-owner of Mocha Cabana Bistro. “We can only assume right now, and we don’t want to assume wrong.”
Kenney said the government would be working “to increase stringency that members of parties for patio service are from the same household or are the two identified close contacts of individuals who live alone.”
It was part of Thursday’s announcement of targeted restrictions in COVID-19 “hot spots.”
“Rather, this is for the people who aren’t taking the pandemic seriously and continue to put others at risk by not following the public health orders in place,” he said.
However, what that would look like for restaurants and who would enforce it are still up in the air.
Harper said her staff are worried that policing and enforcement would fall onto them.
“They’re scared to get verbally abused. People get very upset when they’re asked for things,” she said. “There are still people coming in without a mask on, and we ask them to put a mask on, and we’ve literally had people be abusive to us.”
Most of Harper’s staff are young and are first-time workers.
“We are an entry-level job. Restaurants are typically people’s first experience in a job. They do not have the maturity or the experience to be dealing with angry people,” she said.
“People are angry. It’s unfortunate.”
Mocha Cabana Bistro has been open for eight years. Harper said this is only the second year the restaurant has been able to open the patio before May. While she’s grateful they can open it early this year, it’s only a small win.
“It’s just been one thing on top of another,” she said. “It’s just too much. It’s basically the straw that’s breaking my nice camel’s back.”
Representatives from Alberta’s hospitality industry met with health officials on Friday.
Ernie Tsu, president of the Alberta Hospitality Association, said staff safety was a big concern.
“We still have some clientele that come in very hostile,” he said. “And quite frankly, if they don’t understand the rules or understand that we have a job to do and we have to stay by the policies in order to stay open, we’re not going to put our staff in that situation.”
Moving forward, Tsu hopes that the guidance is written out clearly for not just the industry but customers as well.
“I think the government now has a clear-cut understanding that that’s very hard for any staff member to challenge a customer on if they’re telling the truth or not,” he said.
It’s a point Harper wants health officials to understand.
“We’re going to do whatever we’re asked to do,” she said. “But I need the government to understand the people that they’re asking to do the thing.”