CALGARY (CityNews) — With Alberta reinstituting some public health restrictions, a new wave of economic uncertainty is hitting the province’s businesses.
Premier Jason Kenney announced Tuesday that restaurants must close to in-person dining starting Friday.
Retail stores in Alberta were allowed 25 per cent customer capacity, but that has now been lowered to 15 per cent, and low-intensity group fitness activities are once again banned.
While Albertans may have expected the news following a weekend of variant outbreaks and escalating case numbers, it still spells problems for businesses across the province as they rush to adapt.
“More likely than not we’re going to have to shut down, just do takeout, keep our bare minimum staff on to do so,” said restaurateur Nick Suche, co-owner of Orchard. “We’re going to try to get a patio going but we’re still facing building permit costs. We’re still facing three, four, five-week delays to get anything built there.
“It’s one of those things that, we always prefer more notice. Right now, again, we’re looking at food spoilage costs, we’re looking at a lot of people who have been again let down based on what was supposed to be happening.”
Suche says some in the restaurant industry feel “unjustly penalized” after spending thousands of dollars trying to conform to ever-changing public-health regulations.
He says the government’s “flip-flopping” is taking a toll.
“We can go the Florida route and open everything, or we can go the New Zealand route and close everything,” said Suche. “But we want to do one or the other right. Because if we keep jumping over the fence, it’s an immense weight on everyone’s shoulders to constantly respond, constantly react, constantly change.”
The sudden changes are expected to once again take their toll on Alberta’s businesses, especially restaurants and breweries.
“Don’t forget that really big businesses are making decisions that are months if not years into the future, long supply chains,” said economist Moshe Lander. “As an example that’s not COVID-related, look at what just a few days of problems in the Suez Canal has done for supply disruptions.
“When there’s just an announcement, then everybody’s left looking around saying, ‘and what do we do now?’”
Andrew Bullied is another business owner who was also left scrambling.
The co-owner of Annex Ale Project says he does not want to be in a situation where he needs to fire employees.
“Our biggest concern is our staff,” said Bullied. “We want to make sure that we can keep everyone working and that people aren’t facing any sort of financial burdens. Having to lay people off and having them go on and off EI is difficult, so we want to keep people working as much as we can.
“That’s a huge priority for us.”
Kenney said Alberta is now seeing a third wave of COVID-19, driven mainly by the more contagious and dangerous variants.
The province averaged about 1,000 new COVID-19 cases a day during the Easter long weekend, and the death total has now surpassed 2,000 in the province.
“It’s weird to say but the economic damage would be less if we had a complete and total lockdown for a month than this on again off again,” said Lander. “It’s a lot better to have a long shutdown where we know this is it and this is only it than this tremendous amount of certainty.”
—with files from The Canadian Press