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Health officials close Whistle Stop Café after Alberta restaurant ignores COVID-19 rules for months

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Alberta Health Services has closed a café in Mirror, Alta., that repeatedly broke COVID-19 health restrictions by staying open and serving customers.

On Wednesday, AHS officials, as well as RCMP, physically closed the Whistle Stop Café and prevented access to the building.

AHS said in a news release that there had been 413 public complaints about the business since Jan. 1, 2021.

Ahead of the forced closure, AHS said it had “attempted to work with the operator of the Whistle Stop Café to address the ongoing public health concerns at the site.”

Click to play video: 'Whistle Stop Café closed by AHS, RCMP after flouting COVID-19 rules for months in central Alberta' Whistle Stop Café closed by AHS, RCMP after flouting COVID-19 rules for months in central Alberta
Whistle Stop Café closed by AHS, RCMP after flouting COVID-19 rules for months in central Alberta – May 5, 2021

The café has flouted restrictions for months. It opened for dine-in service in January when its owner told Global News it was serving around 250 people each day.

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At that time, restaurants were not permitted to allow in-person dining due to Alberta public health orders.

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While in-person dining was once again permitted on Feb. 8 in Step 1 of the province’s reopening plan, as cases surged through the third wave of COVID-19, Alberta ordered in-person dining closed again on April 9. Again, the Whistle Stop Café stayed open, AHS said.

Read more: COVID-19: Rural Alberta restaurant defies public health orders

The health agency said that the May 5 shut down was necessary after a series of other measures meant to work with the business failed:

  • a closure order issued Jan. 22
  • a court order on Feb. 3 to comply with the initial closure order
  • another closure order and a suspension of its food handling permit on April 12
  • an additional closure order on April 15
  • an “indefinite” cancelling of the operator’s food handling permit on April 16
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A lengthy video uploaded to the Whistle Stop Café Facebook page on Wednesday showed RCMP and health officials shuttering the business.

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AHS added that the RCMP, Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission, and Occupational Health and Safety have all attempted to enforce Alberta’s COVID-19 restrictions through the process.

“Every effort has been made to work collaboratively with the operator as well as the property owner to come to a resolution before progressing to further enforcement action,” Alberta Health Services said.

“At this time the operator of the Whistle Stop Cafe has decided not to follow these mandatory restrictions, despite efforts by AHS and other partners, nor have they attempted to work to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

“With COVID-19 cases increasing, including the more easily transmitted and potentially more severe variants, there is urgent need to minimize spread to protect all Albertans.”

Mirror, Alta., is located about 65 kilometres east of Red Deer.

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Too much or too little? Premier Jason Kenney faces political pressure from all sides with new COVID-19 restrictions – May 5, 2021

Read more: Schools go online as Alberta adds more COVID-19 restrictions for 3 weeks

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Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced sweeping new restrictions Tuesday as COVID-19 cases continue to surge in the province, including moving all students to online learning, the closure of patio dining, and further limiting the size of outdoor gatherings.

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