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Holiday party cancellations and low bookings have Alberta restaurants worried

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WATCH (Sept. 15): Ernie Tsu, Alberta Hospitality Association president, joins Joel Senick and Linda Olsen to discuss how the province’s latest measures to fight COVID-19 will impact the restaurant industry. – Sep 15, 2021

A second holiday season under the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic is causing concerns for restaurants across Alberta.

Patrick Guimond owns One Eleven Grill in Red Deer. Right now bookings for holiday parties at his restaurant are down about 50 per cent of where they usually are at this time of year. He has also had cancellations, as people worry about what restrictions may be in place at the time their party is booked.

Read more: Some rural Alberta restaurants face restrictions exemption program backlash

“By the beginning of November, we would have no spots left from November to the middle of January,” Guimond said.

To help fill this gap, Guimond said they are relying on customers to come in during the weekend.

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“It’s slowly picking up for sure, definitely a month to the first three weeks (we were) struggling. I think all around, anyone I spoke to in the industry said the same thing.”

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In Edmonton, A Cappella Catering‘s Todd Rutter said there have been a lot of cancellations for holiday parties over the past month, events many caterers are banking on to help recover lost costs during the pandemic.

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“We did have a lot of bookings, for Christmas functions primarily, and since the announcement in September, there’s been a lot of cancellations even though they were going to be held in venues that had the restrictions program in place,” Rutter said.

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 “It was pretty unfortunate because we built up a really strong team and now we’re in a situation where we’re having to lay people off again because the sales have dropped that much.”

Read more: Pandemic hits Alberta’s hospitality industry harder than any other sector: CFIB

Alberta Hospitality Association president Ernie Tsu said restaurants across the province are experiencing hesitation or cancellations for holiday parties.

He said the restriction exemption program added to confusion and made people worry about committing to a reservation.

“The largest worry was the possibility of more restrictions coming down last minute,” Tsu said.

“It has been so hard for the hospitality industry across the province, the last 18 months, let alone the last three months.”

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Tsu said there is still time for it to turn around, and he is hopeful more reservations will be booked.

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Read more: Harassment over COVID-19 restrictions prompts Alberta restaurant to pause indoor dining

He also wants people to remind people restaurants aren’t under a capacity restriction right now.

“We are feeling very confident at this point, with vaccinations going up and case counts going down,” Tsu said.

“Any reservation or any booking, quite frankly, is so important to restaurants across the province that are still fighting their way out of debt.”

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