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Restaurant owners don't think Alberta's COVID-19 changes go far enough

Last Updated Feb 9, 2022 at 9:07 pm MDT

Alberta’s decision to eliminate the Restrictions Exemption Program (REP) has left some restaurant and bar owners puzzled and frustrated.

Premier Jason Kenney announced Tuesday the province would be scraping the REP as of Feb. 9, but the curfew, capacity limits and a ban on alcohol sales past 11 p.m. remain in place.

“It kind of seems a little bit backwards for us to go with the REP first and then lift all the other restrictions,” said Restaurant owner Leslie Echino.

“There are a lot of businesses that rely on that trade that happens between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m.”

Related article:

Alberta’s Restrictions Exemption Program lifted Wednesday, restrictions on entertainment venues removed

The Alberta Hospitality Association (AHA) says the government’s decision is a step in the right direction, but it’s far from hitting the mark.

“The hospitality industry wants an understanding as to why REP would be lifted before other restrictions such as table capacity, curfew and approved socializing and events throughout our operations,” AHA said in a statement.

“Removal of REP without loosening additional restrictions will continue to see operators enduring huge losses daily.”

President Of The Calgary Chamber Of Commerce Deborah Yedlin compared the swift removal of the program to ripping a band-aid off before a wound has healed.

“While policies must adapt to our changing context, tools such as the Restrictions Exemption Program (REP) and masking remain critical to ensuring people feel comfortable dining at restaurants, attending sporting and entertainment events, engaging in group physical activities and going to work,” Yedlin said.

Some restaurants will continue to ask customers to show proof of vaccination.

The Ship & Anchor located on 17th Avenue S.W. is hitting pause on removing the REP while they consult staff and assess customers’ comfort levels.

“We are in support of the Alberta Hospitality Association response to the announcement and feel that it would be wiser to ease out of restrictions with the REP in place while removing other restrictions ahead of it, such as mingling, table caps and curfews,” a statement on their Facebook pages reads.

Alberta plans to remove curfew and capacity limits at the beginning of March if hospitalization rates continue to trend downwards.