The province is on the verge of meeting the criteria the government requires for moving into Stage 3 of its pandemic reopening plan and there is a mixture of anticipation and anxiety among Albertans.
In Stage 3, large-scale events — both indoors and outdoors — can resume, such as football games and concerts. The ban on indoor social gatherings will also be lifted. Masking and distancing will not be required in this stage.
Rob Browatzke is a co-owner at Evolution Wonderlounge in downtown Edmonton. The nightclub has been shut down since March 2020 and Browatzke is itching to reopen the doors.
“We were one of the first businesses in the city and the province that needed to close. We will be one of the last ones to reopen,” he said.
“Definitely, as a business, it has been challenging because we’ve had zero revenue whereas we’ve had most of our expenses still happening.”
Browatzke said most of the nightclub staff have been vaccinated against COVID-19 and those who are not will wear masks and work away from customers. There are plans to put sanitizer all over the business once it reopens.
Though he’s eager to get back to work, he admits there is a tinge of anxiety.
“Sometimes even a crowded line at the supermarket right now triggers that anxiety, so it will be interesting to see what happens on that first crowded Saturday night,” he said.
“But I think that kind of anxiety will be short-lived because the excitement of being around people and seeing happy smiling bottoms of people’s faces again potentially, that’s pretty exciting.”
It’s excitement also being felt at The Garage Sports Bar in Calgary. Owner Charlie Mendelman said he’s receiving more corporate calls inquiring about larger parties, as Alberta nears Stage 3.
“Our phone rings a lot more now,” he said. “We’ve had calls already — more starting in the fall — of regulars saying that (they’d) like to come down.”
The reopening means the business can finally turn a profit, Mendelman said.
“It means that we can operate our business finally, (and) probably profitably,” he said. “It’s been a dry year — a very difficult dry year — for business.”
Mendelman is hopeful that larger parties will come back and he anticipates by the fall there will be more corporate bookings.
Organizers of Nashville North in Calgary said the space is being adjusted to a canopy-style tent for more airflow and to allow for more social distancing. Lineups will go digital and the venue is looking at rapid COVID-19 testing and proof of vaccinations.
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Shelly Beaton is torn about reopening. The Edmonton woman has two sons — aged 28 and 30 — who are transplant recipients and immunocompromised.
“I’m really excited because I haven’t seen my family in forever — like, all of my extended family,” she said. “But I’m also nervous because of the boys.
“We’ve been in such a great bubble for 15 months. It’s kind of scary to come out of it.”
Beaton said she will act carefully when Alberta lifts public health restrictions.
“I think it’s going to be a while before I’m comfortable to go to inside dining,” she said. “It will probably be a while too before I go to a big concert and stuff.”