'Prohibition doesn't work. Abstinence doesn't work': Edmonton restaurant group calls for non-essential lockdown
This stock image shows an empty restaurant. (Pexels)
EDMONTON -- Nearly two dozen local independent restaurants made calls on Monday for the very thing that would, to anyone else, seem to hurt their business the most: a shutdown of all non-essential businesses.
And the province came close to delivering on Tuesday.
Kris Harvey helped write the open letter demanding more action from the Alberta government, signed by 19 other owner/operators of Edmonton businesses.
He told CTV News Edmonton the “half-measures” introduced by the province in November – which included further capacity restrictions and a liquor-sales curfew – made it too tough for restaurants to turn a profit.
“Up until Jason Kenney spoke about hospitality, it was six, seven months of no communication, no response in a positive way standing up for our businesses. And now we’re stuck with this awful challenge,” Harvey said.
“We’re having to choose between the safety of our staff, the safety of our customers, and the ability to operate our businesses going forward and it’s just not fair.”
The Edmonton Independent Hospitality Community asked for a non-essential-businesses lockdown until COVID-19’s spread in the province has been curbed, a commercial eviction ban, and access to federal and provincial financial aid.
The letter said current public health measures were “not enough” to slow the disease and an obstacle to federal support so long as there was not a formal lockdown declaration.
“It’s a no-brainer. You saw the memes and things about COVID after 10 p.m. sneaking out. Like, it doesn’t go away. People still go to house parties, they still go to hotels. And they’ve done this from Day 1,” Harvey commented.
“Prohibition doesn’t work. Abstinence doesn’t work. War on drugs doesn’t work. We need to use our history and data-based information to make positive decisions (about) our economy.”
According to Harvey, each week has brought new permanent closures from all corners of the province.
“I’m very proud of a lot of the businesses that didn’t sign onto this open letter because they have to stand with their employees they currently have… they’re keeping them gainfully employed at a loss,” he told CTV News Edmonton.
But of the industry, he said: “We can’t do this anymore. We’re on our last legs.”
ALBERTA CLOSES MOST BUSINESSES FOR 4 WEEKS
The province announced new restrictions later that day, including closing restaurants, bars and cafes for in-person service, allowing only takeout, curbside pickup and deliveries.
“Many restaurants and similar operations have told us that they’ve closed because they cannot pay their own bills right now,” Premier Jason Kenney said. “This will allow them to fully access federal supports and provincial supports as we get through the difficult following weeks.”
In a somewhat irregular fashion, Kenney, as well as the health and economy ministers, joined the provincial pandemic update by the province’s chief medical officer of health.
They announced a new provincewide mask mandate, a work-from-home order, and limited both indoor and outdoor social gatherings to a household unless an Albertan lives alone, in which case they are allowed two close contacts.
Retail businesses are limited to 15 per cent capacity.
Officials said the new measures were expected to affect 30,000 businesses in total and, as such, announced an extension of a small-to-medium-sized business relaunch grant. Funding up to $5,000 that was previously available to businesses who had experienced a 40-per cent revenue loss due to the pandemic has been increased to up to $20,000 available to businesses that have lost 30 per cent of revenues since March.
When asked why Alberta didn't take stronger action sooner, Kenney reiterated his province has sought to take a balanced approach to the pandemic.
"We have sought to limit the damage on our broader society, for every one of those people who loses their business, their life savings, their job prospects for the future, there is a risk of emotional and mental health challenges."
With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Carlyle Fiset