New Year’s Eve celebrations being cancelled or modified due to Alberta’s latest public health measures are taking a toll on many Edmonton venues and businesses that were hoping to make up for revenues already lost because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Before the Omicron variant started its rapid spread throughout Canada, The Starlite Room’s Tyson Boyd really felt this New Year’s Eve was going to be different.
Boyd booked an interactive night circus and expected to see people excited to ring in 2022, but instead, the live entertainment venue will sit empty.
“It’s really hard even to put into place with the restrictions we are presently faced with,” he said.
Before Christmas, Boyd was forced to pull the plug on another event when some staff became sick with COVID-19.
“The new variant came on really quick and we just had to make some quick decisions,” he said. “But right before we decided to close down before Christmas, we experienced how fast this virus transmits.”
Boyd said the staff who are sick are experiencing mild symptoms and isolating at home.
While cancelling events and closing the doors felt like the right thing to do, it’s also taking a toll, and the impact of the new variant is being felt already into next year.
“We are experiencing cancellations all the way through January, so we are going to be closed for the month,” Boyd said.
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Cancellations are happening all over Edmonton. The Kingsway Legion had big plans to ring in the new year. At first, tickets were being sold for a steak dinner, music and dance. When recent measures came down to keep only 10 at a table with no mingling, people started to call the legion and ask for refunds. One day before the event was supposed to take place, it was cancelled.
“We had sold a huge number of tickets (that have now been refunded)… and cost us a significant amount of money,” said Kingsway Legion president Bill Fecteau.
The event was going to help with building expenses. Fecteau said all there is to do now is to try to be optimistic.
“We hope things are going to change significantly in the new year and we can recoup expenses.”
Not every event was forced to cancel. Some places were able to modify.
At Greta Bar, Taylor Iwaasa said the entire new year’s event was modified to ensure everyone will be safe.
“We were hosting a drag show,” Iwaasa said. “It was going to be a ticketed event… We were going to (have) a DJ and dance until close.
“Based on the way things are kind of going, I think there is a lack of buy-in to some of the events right now, so we are just focusing on filling the house and getting butts in seats.”
Bars are only allowed to serve alcohol until 11 p.m., and must close by 12:30 a.m. Iwaasa said to accommodate the changes, Greta Bar will be bringing in the new year two hours early.
Ernie Tsu, the president of the Alberta Hospitality Association, said all of this is taking its toll.
“A lot of businesses weren’t just depending on new year’s, it was the Christmas season, the corporate parties that were booked… restrictions changed a lot of the outlook,” he said. “A lot of the functions were cancelled — and rightfully so, with no mixing and mingling.
“Any type of restrictions coming down against hospitality are obviously devastating right now as hospitality tries to get out of the last two years.”