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Alberta restaurant owners consider what an end to vaccine passports could mean for their bottom line

With the province poised to remove the Restrictions Exemption Program, many restaurants are evaluating what the potential change could mean to their business.

Throughout the pandemic, the changing public health measures meant eateries and bars have had to adapt from closing dining rooms to limiting tables to the vaccine passport system.

For Josh Wilhelm, owner of Toast Culture, the move could represent a boost to business.

"I'm no doctor, I don't know where things are going to be in two months from now, but this feels different than it has over the last few years," Wilhelm said.

Wilhelm says if the passport system is cancelled, staff and customers' health and safety will remain top of mind but in a more endemic fashion.

"We are going to have to live this," he added. "And you know, go on running businesses and our private lives and things like that with it around us.

"I think we are gearing up to a bit of an endemic scenario where we can kind of get back to a bit of normalcy."

Blair Lebsack, owner and chef at Rge Rd, told CTV News Edmonton he sees both sides of the issue.

"People are very open to it," Lebsack said, who is also a member of the Alberta Hospitality Association.

"Actually, it probably makes people feel more comfortable coming in here, so for us personally, I don't see the need for it to be completely abolished. I still think it can serve a purpose."

One thing that is certain for both Lebsack and Wilhelm is that business took a hit throughout the pandemic when the government changed rules.

"There's always that initial period where it is kind of touch and go," Wilhelm said. "There will be for sure people that won't want to come in because they think maybe the person next to them might not be vaccinated.

"We are just going to take that as it comes," he said. "As a business, we just have to roll with it, like we have done for the last two years."

Lesback worries that should the Restrictions Exemption Program end, it becomes very difficult for individual restaurants to maintain vaccine requirements on their own.

"You need to have the consistency from the government," Lebsack said. "I think that's one of the main things because it's really hard to implement on your own.

"You really alienate people then when it's your own decision."

The province is expected to make an announcement about lifting COVID-19 restrictions next week. Top Stories

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