Res­tau­rant own­ers stress pub­lic needs clear di­rec­tion on ca­pac­ity

Calgary Herald - - CITY + REGION - STEPHANIE BABYCH sbabych@post­media.com Twit­ter: @Baby­ch­stephanie

Some lo­cal res­tau­rant own­ers say the pro­vin­cial govern­ment’s an­nounce­ment of Stage 2 of the eco­nomic re­launch is re­sult­ing in pub­lic con­fu­sion about the num­ber of guests al­lowed to be served at a time.

In un­veil­ing the next step of the re­launch strat­egy on Tues­day, Pre­mier Ja­son Ken­ney an­nounced restau­rants, bars, pubs and cafes would be al­lowed to open at 100 per cent ca­pac­ity start­ing Fri­day. How­ever, the Al­berta Hos­pi­tal­ity As­so­ci­a­tion says it wasn’t made clear enough that the same two-me­tre dis­tanc­ing and six-per­son limit per ta­ble re­stric­tions are still in place.

Ernie Tsu, owner of Trol­ley 5 and found­ing board mem­ber of AHA, said there is con­fu­sion from the pub­lic be­cause most restau­rants can’t ex­pand their ca­pac­ity any more be­cause of safety re­stric­tions. Of the reser­va­tion calls they’ve re­ceived at Trol­ley 5 since the Stage 2 an­nounce­ment, about 60 per cent have been for groups of more than six peo­ple.

“We have peo­ple call­ing in for ta­bles of 20 or 15 peo­ple,” said Tsu.

“It’s very mis­guided … Say­ing we are able to op­er­ate at 100 per cent ca­pac­ity should be re­tracted be­cause it’s not ac­cu­rate. They can’t make the state­ment that we’re serv­ing at 100 per cent ca­pac­ity un­til the two-me­tre rule is re­moved.”

In his an­nounce­ment, Ken­ney did say the re­stric­tions re­main in place but Tsu is con­cerned this got lost in the mes­sage be­cause most restau­rants are al­ready op­er­at­ing at max­i­mum ca­pac­ity, which is be­tween 20 to 50 per cent of reg­u­lar seat­ing. Tsu said some restau­rants that haven’t been able to open still won’t be able to in Stage 2.

He’s hop­ing the govern­ment will clar­ify this point with the pub­lic on Fri­day, or that Al­berta Health will ad­just the two-me­tre dis­tanc­ing re­stric­tion to one or one-anda-half me­tres to al­low for more seat­ing.

Les­lie Echino’s res­tau­rant Annabelle’s Kitchen has been op­er­at­ing at about 25 per cent ca­pac­ity, which is the max­i­mum she can ac­com­mo­date un­der the two-me­tre dis­tanc­ing rules.

How­ever, she and her crew have mea­sured it out and if the rule were to change to one-and-a-half me­tres, their ca­pac­ity would jump sig­nif­i­cantly.

“Be­tween all three of my restau­rants, I would be serv­ing at about 70 per cent ca­pac­ity if that were to change … Try­ing to ex­plain to our guests that it doesn’t mean we can seat more at a ta­ble or more in the res­tau­rant is a downer,” said Echino, who is also a found­ing board mem­ber of AHA.

A safe en­vi­ron­ment could be main­tained with a re­duced manda­tory dis­tance be­cause of the pre­cau­tions be­ing taken by staff, she added. She hasn’t re­opened the doors of Bar Annabelle yet be­cause the two-me­tre rule wouldn’t let her seat enough peo­ple. She’s wor­ried about what the fu­ture holds for res­tau­rant own­ers.

“I can’t see all of this be­ing vi­able and be­ing able to pay the rent down the road and in the win­ter when there are no pa­tio spa­ces,” she said. “Sup­port­ing lo­cal is so im­por­tant right now.”

There is an op­tion to in­stall Plex­i­glas bar­ri­ers be­tween ta­bles to safely al­low for more seat­ing, al­though Echino said it would be a sev­eral-thou­sand-dol­lar investment that she isn’t sure would be worth it for many restau­rants.

Al­berta Health spokesman Tom Mcmil­lan said the re­stric­tions in place are nec­es­sary to min­i­mize the risk of trans­mis­sion of in­fec­tion while din­ing out.

“While the seat­ing ca­pac­ity re­quire­ment has been re­moved to po­ten­tially al­low more peo­ple into restau­rants (where safe to do so), phys­i­cal dis­tanc­ing mea­sures and ta­ble lim­its re­main nec­es­sary to pre­vent trans­mis­sion of the virus,” Mcmil­lan said in a state­ment.

The sit­u­a­tion in Al­berta is be­ing con­tin­u­ously mon­i­tored, he added, so ad­just­ments will be made when it is deemed safe to do so.

Mayor Na­heed Nen­shi said dur­ing Thurs­day’s news con­fer­ence that city of­fi­cials are still busy with out­door pa­tio ap­pli­ca­tions to al­low for more space.

“I no­ticed the pa­tios are busy, which I like,” said Nen­shi. “If you as a pa­tron have ques­tions, the res­tau­rant knows so don’t fight with them … The fu­ture is in your clean hands.”

He said he has vis­ited two restau­rants to sup­port lo­cal busi­nesses and was im­pressed by the pro­to­cols put in place to meet the pro­vin­cial govern­ment’s re­stric­tions.

GAVIN YOUNG

Pa­tios like the one at James Joyce Ir­ish Pub & Res­tau­rant are “are busy, which I like,” said Mayor Na­heed Nen­shi.

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