Canada

Alberta’s hospitality industry pushes for reopening of restaurants, bars amid COVID-19

A group representing Alberta’s hospitality industry is sounding the alarm on the long-term effects the province’s current COVID-19 restrictions will have should they remain in place.

The health measures have closed in-person services at all restaurants, pubs, bars, lounges and cafes in Alberta, with only take-out, curbside pickup and delivery allowed.

The restrictions were put in place on Dec. 13 and are to remain in place until at least Jan. 21.

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In an open letter to Alberta’s UCP government, the Alberta Hospitality Association (AHA) says the industry is now at a breaking point and the 150,000 Albertans who work in the industry are struggling.

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“Without better communication, fact-based data, and a clear near-term re-opening plan, we will continue to permanently lose businesses and jobs,” the letter states. “This will have long term repercussions including mass unemployment and irreparable economic and cultural damage.”

“We will continue to permanently lose businesses and jobs.”

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The association is asking Jason Kenney’s UCP government to let restaurants reopen in-person dining with strict measures in place — and commit to no more shutdowns.

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Along with preventing in-person dining, Alberta’s current COVID-19 restrictions have closed personal and wellness services and largely prohibited team sports and fitness classes.

Retail services are still allowed to be open but are limited to operating at 15 per cent capacity.

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The letter states that though the association originally supported the government’s decision to institute COVID-19 restrictions, there is no clear end in sight and a “lack of supporting data” that makes it difficult to justify having some industries closed while others remain open.

The letter calls current COVID-19 restrictions in Alberta “unbalanced and unfair.”

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“Closed sectors of the economy such as hospitality, cosmetology, and fitness are industries that are highly regulated with rigorous safety standards which provide safe environments for both guests and employees, and yet they remain closed,” the letter states.

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AHA President Ernie Tsu says the government has made decisions with incomplete data due to contact tracing delays.

“It would be different if we could stick to that tag line of ‘we’re all in this together,’ but we’re not right now,” Tsu said.

“You as an Alberta government are now pitting industry versus industry. You cannot keep certain sectors of the economy closed — and the cases go up — while other sectors are open.”

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Tsu added that mental health issues are an ongoing concern for those who work in the industry.

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“Mental health is starting to break down,” he said. “Unemployed staff, owners that have their second mortgages and their livelihoods on the line, they can’t they can’t go much longer than this.”

The letter is calling for a concrete relaunch plan with measurable targets that need to be reached for services to reopen, such as a specific R-value, number of daily COVID-19 cases or number of hospitalizations.

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