Alberta restaurateurs hope for reimbursement in light of COVID-19 patio ban

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Alberta restauranteurs hope for reimbursement in light of patio ban
WATCH: In a desperate attempt to survive, restaurants across Alberta invested thousands of dollars for outdoor eating spaces to comply with previous COVID-19 restrictions. But as of Sunday, all patios must be closed. As Jill Croteau reports, it's another significant blow for the industry. – May 6, 2021

Laura Coles, Prairie Dog Brewing co-owner, said they just secured approvals from their landlord and spent $10,000 for their new outdoor dining space, only to have it shut down in days.

“We wake up every morning thinking: What are we going to do with this? How will we pay our staff? How will we pay our rent?” Coles said.

Coles and many other Alberta restaurants and pubs are fighting to find the stamina to keep afloat. Patio additions recently done by resilient restaurateurs to revive their struggling businesses are now being closed.

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The province announced new public health measures on Tuesday, including closing in-person outdoor dining at restaurants, effective May 9.

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“My husband and I were going to have a second child but we opened up a brew pub and now we can’t walk away from it,” Coles said.

The NDP is calling for the province to reimburse patio investments and increase the current $10,000 small and medium enterprise relaunch grant (SMERG) to $25,000.

NDP press conference outside Dandy Brewing Company. Jill Croteau/Global News

Economic development critic, Deron Bilous, said it’s been chaos for small businesses and restaurants.

“Now we are in the midst of a third wave with a meagre amount of supports to people who have invested their life savings and are holding on by a thread,” Bilous said.

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The Alberta BIA Alliance is supporting the NDP’s calls for more financial support.

Co-chair, Annie MacInnis said the last 15 months have been a challenge.

“The relaunch grant has already been used up and it’s not enough,” MacInnis said.

Exorbitant lumber prices meant owners paid a lot for the patios in a year of barely hanging on.

Ben Leon is co-owner of Dandy Brewing Company.

Dandy Brewing Company adding to their patio. Jill Croteau/Global News

“It’s come down to a dice roll every time. When I see this beautiful patio of ours I love and can’t wait to sit and have a beer on it but it’s that doubt of: should we have invested in more retail or merchandise?” Leon said. “It’s been tough.”

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They only hope the weather on the weekend brings sunshine before the dark clouds roll and shut them down Sunday night.

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