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COVID-19 restrictions put Calgary restaurant owners in dire straits

The three-week personal food restrictions were introduced on Sunday. Photo: KIRSTEN PHILLIPS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

COVID-19 restrictions have forced Calgary restaurant and bar owners to close for personal dining after many invested thousands of dollars in expanded sidewalk patios.

On May 4, Alberta Prime Minister Jason Kenney announced further restrictions to respond to the increasing cases of COVID-19 in the province – including banning all personal food for three weeks.

The new restrictions began on Sunday (May 9th) restricting restaurants and bars to takeaway, roadside collection and delivery.

Customers at Leslie Echinos Restaurant, Annabelle’s Kitchen, on the last personal dining weekend before the new restrictions went into effect. KIRSTEN PHILLIPS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

Despite the financial loss these restrictions will cause, many restaurant owners understand, said Leslie Echino, Calgary business owner, co-founder of the Alberta Hospitality Association (AHA) and director of Restaurants Canada.

“[When] These restrictions are 100 percent in place, we must obey them. We need to protect our employees and the public, ”said Echino.

Gustavo Bolivar, owner of Gringo Street on 17th Ave, agreed.

“We don’t like to complain – it is what it is,” said Bolivar.

Closing costs

Echino has settled in with the Calgary entrepreneurs. Especially restaurants, which are quite expensive to run.

“It costs [the average restaurants] five to ten thousand dollars “each time they are forced to close and reopen – taking into account perishable inventory,” Echino said.

“Doordash, Skip The Dishes and Curbide make up maybe 10 or 15 percent of our normal sales, so it’s a huge amount of wasted product.”

The colorful wooden fence that Gustavo Bolivar and his staff created to save money on their extended patio. Photo: KIRSTEN PHILLIPS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

The drop in sales is not only an issue due to the wasted inventory it causes, but also the amount of money restaurants have invested to bring their stores into line with AHS guidelines.

“Look at all of the plexiglass here. That’s $ 8,000 plexiglass. Buying patio furniture … the patio covers, you know what do these restaurants cost? I know there are some restaurants that spend eight to 20 grand on it, ”said Echino.

“I know restaurants that have served 10 [to] $ 20,000 just on these forest tracks. People think it’s cheap. Wood is four times as expensive as it was a year ago. These are not cheap and quick fixes. “

Bolivar managed to save some money on his extended patio cover by building a wooden fence barrier with his staff.

“I’d rather pay it [rather] than going and paying an outside company three times more than what it is [costs] to build something, ”said Bolivar.

Address frustrations

Despite following the “strictest” guidelines for restaurants and bars, Echino said, I feel like the industry is being targeted.

Disinfectants and detergents are available in restaurants and bars such as Annabelle’s Kitchen. Photo: KIRSTEN PHILLIPS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi recognized the problem and suggested that the fault was not with the facilities.

“I think the real challenge was that while the operators really went out of their way to do the job, the problem of just being there with your family was probably the most frequently ignored rule,” Mayor Nenshi said.

“It was very, very difficult for restaurants to get this through [rule] – In some ways unfair to ask restaurants to enforce this. “

Mayor Nenshi hopes these new restrictions will mimic the November 2020 outcome.

“Our evidence from November, when the government put these restrictions in place, is that in our cases in the second wave we peaked pretty quickly and fell pretty much,” he said.

“These regulations are very similar, if not exactly the same, to November. I would assume they would get the same results with the added benefit that more and more people are being vaccinated. So the base of people who could become infected is also getting smaller. “

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