AHS shuts down Whistle Stop Cafe as Alberta doubles enforcement fines
EDMONTON -- Alberta Health Services has closed down a café near Mirror, Alta., after it repeatedly flouted COVID-19 public health restrictions in recent months.
The Whistle Stop Café reopened in April despite provincial health guidelines banning indoor public dining. Management had planned to host an event on the weekend that would have included live entertainment.
A video livestreamed on the café's Facebook page showed Mounties and AHS staff on scene Wednesday morning.
In a statement, AHS said it had "physically closed" the café and "prevented access to the building until the operator can demonstrate the ability to comply."
"Every effort has been made to work collaboratively with the operator as well as the property owner to come to a resolution before progressing to further enforcement action," the statement reads.
"At this time the operator of the Whistle Stop Café has decided not to follow these mandatory restrictions, despite efforts by AHS and other partners, nor have they attempted to work to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission."
AHS says it had received 413 complaints from the public about the venue since the start of the year.
It issued a closure order on Jan. 22 and again on April 12. AHS says it issued a full closure order on April 15, requiring the café to cease dine-in and take-out services. The next day the café's food handling permit was cancelled indefinitely.
In a statement to CTV News, Mounties said they attended to "preserve the peace and maintain public safety."
"The Alberta RCMP is a steadfast partner in this health crisis and continues to support AHS in any future enforcement they pursue."
Last weekend, Mounties visited the café and removed its liquor after Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis revoked its liquor licence.
'WE'RE NOT CLOSING'
Owner Christopher Scott says he was served with a notice at his home early Wednesday morning and that AHS had locked and chained the doors before he got to work.
"We're not closing," he said on a Facebook video. "If people don't start standing up, it could be you next."
On the video, Scott said the café's food inventory was locked up inside, but he was still serving coffee and hamburgers outside and had set up a number of tables and plastic chairs.
"We still have people visiting," he said. "I'm going to keep doing what I'm doing."
Scott says he expects AHS and RCMP to show up again.
"I think at this point, the sky's the limit on what the government's going to do."
Yesterday, Premier Jason Kenney announced a number of new restrictions as Alberta continues to have the highest per capita new and active case counts in the country.
Those measures included a doubling of fines for violating public health orders, from $1,000 to $2,000, as well as new measures Justice Minister Kaycee Madu says will "more effectively target complex and flagarant cases of non-compliance."
"Fines alone will not eradicate the problem of repeat offenders," said Madu.
Since the start of the pandemic, 2,099 Albertans have died and more than 8,100 have been hospitalized.