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Not ‘business as usual’ for Alberta restaurants during phased re-opening

Last Updated May 9, 2020 at 5:03 pm MDT

(THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh)
Summary

Restaurants Canada is calling on governments to help the industry get back on its feet.


CALGARY (CITYNEWS) – Re-opening their doors to customers is easier said than done, according to some Alberta restaurant owners.

Owners are trying to determine how they can re-open their restaurants safely on May 14 while obeying the province’s guidelines. They’re only allowed to open at 50 per cent capacity, and no bar service is permitted.

“We’re going to have to re-invent ourselves again,” said Mark von Schellwitz, vice-president of Western Canada for Restaurants Canada. “It’s not going to be business as usual.

“You basically will have to redo your whole business plan, floor plan, put physical distancing measures in place.”

The restaurant chain Earls is getting ready to re-open in Alberta on May 14, the date chosen by the provincial government in its phased re-launch approach. Earls has already opened restaurants in Manitoba, Florida and Texas in varying capacities.

“All our staff are going to be wearing masks when we re-open,” said Mark Hladik, chief restaurant officer at Earls. “Anybody interacting with guests will be sanitizing their hands. All trays, plates are going to be rigorously washed. Anything that is high touch like menus is going to be disposable.

“We’re getting a sense of what the customer demand is like, what all the safety protocols have to look like to be put in place, so we feel pretty confident going into opening in Alberta.”

But it will be starting from scratch for others. Two popular locally owned businesses in Calgary – Ship & Anchor Pub and Outcast Brewing Co. – have said they won’t be opening on May 14.

“I think it’s just a little too early to get people back into meeting places,” said Patrick Schnarr, brewer and co-owner of Outcast Brewing Co.

Many Alberta restaurants say aside from basic rules, there haven’t been enough guidelines set for the industry. And with less than a week to a potential re-open, they just don’t feel it would be safe.

Added Schnarr: “We need a couple of weeks to see how everybody else does, and the opening procedures that everybody else has, and if we see another outbreak happen as soon as restrictions slowly get lifted.”

Restaurants Canada is calling on governments to help the industry get back on its feet. Although the extension of the wage subsidy is good news, the association says restaurants need rent relief and capital funding to re-start business.

“Our members are really concerned about their ability to pay their vendors, to pay their rent for the next three-month period and to re-open,” said von Schellwitz. “Certainly, we’re hearing from a lot of members that they don’t have the money to do so.”