‘We don’t have the data to support it’: Alberta Hospitality Association disappointed with province reverting to Step 1

The Alberta Hospitality Association is disappointed the province is reverting back to Step 1 of its public health restriction framework, arguing the decision is politically motivated.

Premier Jason Kenney announced Tuesday that previous public health measures would be brought back in following a rise in COVID-19 cases and its variants. Returning to Step 1 means reducing capacity for retailers and malls to 15 per cent of fire code occupancy, limiting indoor fitness activities to one-on-one training and prohibiting adult performances such as dancing and singing.

In-dining services will be banned at restaurants as of Friday at noon, although outdoor patios will be allowed.

Jeff Jamieson, a board member with the Alberta Hospitality Association, said he’s grateful the government gave restaurants a few days to prepare but feels the industry is being unfairly targeted.

“We just want to make sure that we’re not being unnecessarily demonized,” Jamieson said. “We’ve never received any data that supports locking down of restaurants as helping to limit spread. On its face, it’s a pretty easy political maneuver to demonize us but we don’t have the data to support it. If we did have that data, our association would be saying clearly, we’re a part of the problem so how do we work towards a solution? But we don’t have the data to support it.”

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He said the association will follow public health guidelines.

During his announcement, Kenney said there have been a number of incidents of people “table-hopping” at restaurants, despite the rule of sitting with members from your household.

Jamieson said the premier’s example was anecdotal and something he’s not seen at his restaurant.

“If you’re not going to point to something specific, then it’s anecdotal,” he said. “Restaurants are a place where (people are) meeting but the data just doesn’t seem to point to restaurants as being the major problem.”

Janet Riopel, the president and CEO of the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce, said in a Wednesday statement that Alberta had little choice to bring in more restrictions following the rise in cases.

“These restrictions will continue to have devastating impacts on businesses, who are once again faced with surplus inventories, sending their staff home, and trying to find new ways to withstand this never-ending storm,” she said. “Governments must keep their foot on the gas pedal (and) supports must be maintained and enhanced until we are well on our way towards economic recovery. We are eagerly awaiting news of what new support programs will be made available, ensuring businesses can hang on just a little bit longer and ride out this third wave.”

Cherie Klassen, the executive director of the Old Strathcona Business Association, said since Tuesday’s announcement, businesses have been rushing to prepare their patios.

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The City of Edmonton is offering a streamlined application process for restaurants through its temporary outdoor patio program until April 30, 2022. Once approved by the city, businesses can offer an outdoor patio.

Klassen said the patio season is going to be crucial for businesses.

“We’re working on things like expanded sidewalks and making more space for patios,” she said. “That’s going to be important. I know businesses are quickly, frantically rushing now because of this news yesterday.”

Going forward, Klassen said she hopes the province provides more time to allow for businesses to adjust as only a few days can be very difficult and frustrating.

Heather Thomson, the executive director of the University of Alberta’s School of Retailing, said the rubber band effect of having businesses opening and closing can be very costly. She said what businesses need is a lot of transparency from the government in terms of how to recover and where they can get help.

“Uncertainties (are) probably one of the biggest stressors for businesses,” Thomson said. “If the province can do what they can to not just pay their bills but ultimately give them some tools so they’re able to ride out this uncertainty wave, I think that would be immensely supportive for the businesses.”

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References

  1. ^ Local News (edmontonjournal.com)
  2. ^ (edmontonjournal.com)
  3. ^ jlabine@postmedia.com (edmontonjournal.com)
  4. ^ twitter.com/jefflabine (twitter.com)
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