Several Alberta rodeos, Fort McMurray Pride and 14 venues hosting Calgary Pride Festival events were granted exemptions from new COVID-19 public health restrictions limiting alcohol sales.
On Friday, the Alberta government announced that restaurants and bars will be required to stop alcohol service at 10 p.m. as part of efforts to slow the transmission of COVID-19.
Alberta Health says rodeos in Airdrie, Cochrane and Ponoka were all given exemptions, requested by organizers, to allow liquor sales to continue until 2 a.m.
It’s didn’t take long for Calgary Pride Festival organizers to hear about rodeo exemptions, as they were posted on social media.
On Saturday afternoon, Calgary Pride officials scrambled and contacted Alberta Health requesting the same exemptions. By the evening, they received notice from Alberta Health that 14 venues got the green light to serve past 10 p.m.
“The organizers have invested significant resources in the operation of these events and require the full operation of liquor service and consumption beyond 10 p.m. to recuperate costs.”
But Cormier said the change came too late for some businesses that weren’t able to take advantage of the exemptions on Saturday night.
“It’s a big win for Pride as it should be because they were given consideration on a level they should have been given, to begin with,” said Calgary’s Dickens Pub owner Chris Hewitt.
Dickens Pub is one of the establishments that received an exemption.
“Pride is a big part of Calgary. Pride should’ve been given this consideration, and it should’ve been discussed with them in advance,” Hewitt said.
Calgary Pride officials hope that local businesses will benefit from the change on Sunday night as Pride events wrap up, but how the change came late in the game has organizers disappointed.
“I think if we’re thinking about equity and inclusion, it was a misstep and perhaps it was an oversight,” Cormier said.
A spokesperson for Alberta Health said on Sunday that the exemptions were requested by the organizers and all requests were made and granted since the provincial announcement was made on Friday.
“Exemptions are determined on a case-by-case basis for time-limited events, particularly larger scale and public events taking place this weekend that were disrupted by the new rules on short notice. Selected once-a-year events have been granted a public interest exemption over the course of the pandemic; they are not new,” read the statement to Global News.
“Exemptions are granted due to the event’s importance to the local economy and community. Current exemptions are all for open-air events. Mask requirements continue to apply to any indoor component.”
As for Hewitt, he decided not to serve liquor past 10 p.m. He said it’s his way of standing in solidarity with other businesses that he said are hurting as a result of the latest restrictions.
“When you own a bar, you start to see your sales increase particularly on the weekends at 10 or 11 o’clock. That’s the prime time, so when you have to stop your sales at 10 o’clock, your revenue is decimated,” Hewitt said.
On Monday, Alberta Health confirmed exemptions were also granted over the long weekend for Pride YMM in Fort McMurray.