Some entrepreneurs celebrate COVID-19 reopenings, others still closed and concerned
EDMONTON -- Some business owners and their employees applauded Thursday as the province announced a return to work for some starting Monday - others were left waiting and worried.
The UCP government announced sweeping closures in December on things like hairdressing, tattooing and in-person dining at restaurants.
Coronavirus numbers were surging at the time and officials said hospitals would be overwhelmed with patients if they didn’t act.
Since then, Alberta has bent the curve of new cases downwards, allowing for personal services operations to reopen Jan. 18.
“We are just so excited. It means so much not just for our staff but also for our clients, especially the ones that experience hair loss,” Leslie Boss from The Extensionist Salon said following the announcement.
Boss said they had to layoff about a dozen staff right before Christmas.
She claimed that despite later learning that a client received service while unknowingly positive for the virus - none of her staff were ever infected.
“I definitely understand the need for (restrictions), however I don’t agree with them because I think that we can do our job, and we can do it safely,” Boss argued.
“We take government regulated training on sanitation. And you can’t tell me that we can’t do our job safely, but you can go to HomeSense or wherever and shop for vases and that’s safer,” she added.
Officials agreed with Boss that there had not been significant transmission in personal services businesses, but explained that the goal then was to reduce the number of close contacts between Albertans.
The Extensionist Salon will be open Monday, and Boss said the phone started ringing as soon as the government announced she could reopen.
‘WE CANNOT SURVIVE’
Restaurants, meanwhile, are left waiting to reopen in-person dining.
“I’m hoping that will be really soon, but we’re at the mercy of the government. To say it’s been a rollercoaster, that’s an understatement,” Joseph Rustom, owner of Barbarella Restaurant, said of the pandemic and resulting changes to his business.
Barbarella had to layoff about 40 staff members twice in 2020, Rustom said.
He understands the safety concerns surrounding COVID-19, but is also worried about the death of his business.
Barbarella sells a classy atmosphere, fancy drinks and fine food - not things people can or will order in often enough to cover expenses, he said.
“Our type of establishment, we cannot survive being closed and only doing takeout or delivery, even pickup. I’m not excited about the relaxing of the restrictions, and nothing was brought up about the restaurants themselves,” Rustom said.
Barbarella recently received a provincial grant, which Rustom is thankful for, but said it still left him tens of thousands of dollars short on his monthly expenses.
“We all followed the regulations. We implemented every COVID rule possible, and I don’t think the restaurants themselves were the root or the cause of the problems,” Rustom argued, saying he wasn’t aware of even one coronavirus case linked to his restaurant.
The UCP government has said throughout the pandemic that it wanted to balance “lives and livelihoods” and keep as many businesses open as possible.
On Thursday, Health Minister Tyler Shandro said he didn’t know when more restrictions would be lifted.
“If we continue to see case rates and hospitalizations and our ICU admissions continue to slow down and go down, we will continue to open things up. It's that simple. Let's remember, the numbers will reflect how well we are doing and it's up to us to keep doing well,” Shandro said.
With files from CTV News Edmonton's Alex Antoneshyn.