Some restau­rant and bar own­ers re­main un­com­fort­able with re­open­ing

Calgary Herald - - CITY + REGION - DANIEL AUSTIN daustin@post­ Twit­­nyaustin_9

Restau­rants in Calgary may be al­lowed to open as soon as next week­end. Be­ing al­lowed to open and ac­tu­ally open­ing are two dif­fer­ent things, though.

The COVID-19 pan­demic has dev­as­tated the bar and restau­rant in­dus­try in Calgary and across the coun­try, and many restau­rant own­ers would love noth­ing more than to re­open their es­tab­lish­ments to start bring­ing in badly needed rev­enue.

Prepa­ra­tions are be­ing un­der­taken cau­tiously.

“Our whole in­dus­try is just wait­ing for more de­tails,” said Wayne Leong, owner of Melrose Cafe & Bar and OEB Break­fast Co. “We’re cau­tiously op­ti­mistic as we go into it. We want to make sure we fol­low the guide­lines. We’re try­ing to fig­ure out what the dis­tanc­ing should be, whether ev­ery­one has to wear a face mask or gloves, all of that.

“We’re just try­ing to an­a­lyze what the best out­come should be.”

As part of the prov­ince’s phased re­launch plan, bars and restau­rants could be al­lowed to re­open at 50 per cent ca­pac­ity as early as May 14.

There are health and safety questions that each in­di­vid­ual restau­rant is deal­ing with, but there are other prob­lems, as well.

The pop­u­lar Ship and An­chor pub on 17th Av­enue will con­tinue to of­fer take­out and de­liv­ery, but man­age­ment isn’t com­fort­able with re­open­ing.

Mod­ern Steak says its Kens­ing­ton and Stephen Av­enue lo­ca­tions won’t be open­ing on May 14.

Les­lie Echino, owner of Blink Restau­rant and Bar Annabelle in down­town as well as Annabelle’s Kitchen in Marda Loop, is tak­ing dif­fer­ent ap­proaches to each of her prop­er­ties.

Echino hopes she’ll be able to have the pa­tio open at Annabelle’s Kitchen by late May with the restau­rant open by early June. Be­cause Bar Annabelle is a small space, it won’t be able to open at 50 per cent ca­pac­ity.

As for Blink, the com­bi­na­tion of the COVID-19 pan­demic and the eco­nomic con­di­tions in down­town Calgary over the past cou­ple years have prompted Echino to close af­ter 12½ years. She’s look­ing to re­open with a higher-end Annabelle’s Kitchen on July 1.

“(At Annabelle’s Kitchen) we were able to pivot to curb­side pickup, but now we’re hir­ing staff and do­ing safety pre­cau­tions to make sure all our staff feel safe com­ing back to work. That’s a ma­jor hur­dle,” Echino said.

“We’re work­ing on proper safety pro­ce­dures and stan­dards. We’re kind of work­ing on a check­list for the Al­berta Hospi­tal­ity As­so­ci­a­tion and Restau­rants Canada.”

Across the in­dus­try, there’s con­cern that af­ter two months of sig­nif­i­cantly re­duced rev­enue, many small busi­nesses will strug­gle to re­open.

Mark von Schell­witz, western vice-pres­i­dent for Restau­rants Canada, said there are high costs as­so­ci­ated with es­sen­tially restart­ing busi­nesses.

“For us, it’s quite a startup cost. We’ve got a per­ish­able in­ven­tory that has to be re­stocked. You’ve got to put in new plans. It’s al­most like a whole new busi­ness plan to han­dle the 50 per cent ca­pac­ity. You need new floor plans to han­dle the phys­i­cal dis­tanc­ing and new clean­li­ness and san­i­ta­tion pro­to­cols.”

Seventy per cent of the re­spon­dents to an as­so­ci­a­tion sur­vey said they had se­ri­ous con­cerns about pay­ing their bills over the next three months. Restau­rants Canada is call­ing on the prov­ince to pro­vide sup­port to the food ser­vice in­dus­try as it at­tempts to re­open.

“As re­silient as our in­dus­try is, it just won’t be enough to en­sure that all 11,000 restau­rants re­main vi­able,” von Schell­witz said.

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