Edmonton restaurateur asks Premier Kenney for lockdown, financial support
EDMONTON -- A local chef and business owner is asking Premier Jason Kenney to lock down his business and others like it - citing safety and financial concerns.
“As much as I don’t want a lockdown, I feel like it’s the right thing to do at this point,” Chef Paul Shufelt said Tuesday night.
Kenney announced new restrictions on social gatherings and businesses Tuesday as the province tries to control the spread of COVID-19.
Alberta restaurants and pubs are restricted, but still allowed to serve customers indoors who are unmasked while eating and drinking.
Shufelt, who owns and operates The Workshop Eatery and Robert Spencer Hospitality, feels the best thing for everyone is to close dining rooms for 30 days.
“We’re not doing enough at this point to make change...these half-measures are putting lives at risk and making it more likely that more people are going to be sick and more people are going to be hospitalized and unfortunately more going are going to die,” Shufelt said.
Kenney argues he’s using data to make targeted restrictions in an effort to protect “lives and livelihoods” - but provincial figures show Alberta doesn’t know where the vast majority of new transmission is occurring because most cases haven’t been contact traced.
“So, the reality is, while we have seen some people who work in the hospitality sector test positive, of course, my recollection is that the last data I've seen we identified 18 outbreaks over the past nine months, in Alberta’s 13,000 hospitality businesses, meaning that something like 99.8% of those businesses did not have outbreaks,” Kenney said Tuesday defending his decision to allow in-person dining to continue.
Kenney argued he had nine months of coronavirus data to make his decisions - but Opposition Leader Rachel Notley criticized his moves Tuesday.
“When it comes to restaurants and bars, they make no change to what they announced 12 days ago, but let’s be clear, in the last 12 days our case count has spiraled out of control and restaurants and bars are one of the few places left where people can gather, many of them together, inside, without masks,” Notley said.
RESTAURANTS GOING BEYOND RESTRICTIONS
Other local restaurants Northern Chicken and Cartago have previously decided to suspend in-person dining due to rising coronavirus cases, and Shufelt is considering doing the same.
“I feel like that’s the safest thing to do for our staff and our community,” Shufelt said, although he acknowledged the province’s effort in trying to allow him to stay open.
“I really do think (Kenney’s) trying for small business, but I think it’s too little too late,” he added.
Shufelt suggested the province could better combat the virus by closing in-person dining and offering struggling restaurants rent support and bill freezes instead.
Restaurants Canada - a group representing more than 40,000 members, disagreed in an October statement though - saying that sweeping lockdowns were not needed.
“Restaurants have invested over $750 million in training, sanitizer stations, PPE, air purification systems, and other protective equipment, all designed to provide the highest levels of safety for our customers,” a statement on the organizations website read.
A full list of current restrictions, including those of restaurants and pubs can be found online.