At 'breaking point,' Alberta hospitality industry group asks province for clear path to reopening

·2 min read

The Alberta Hospitality Association is demanding clear guidelines from the province regarding when and how businesses that are closed or restricted due to the pandemic can resume normal operations.

In an open letter to the province, the industry group says the roughly 150,000 people who work in the sector have been struggling for too long and the current state of restrictions are unfair.

"Without better communication, fact-based data, and a clear near-term reopening plan, we will continue to permanently lose businesses and jobs," the letter says.

"This will have long term repercussions including mass unemployment and irreparable economic and cultural damage to our communities."

Association president Ernie Tsu said the Alberta government has done an excellent job of keeping communications open and listening to the industry during the pandemic, but he said his members are now in a crisis.

"Government officials and AHS must understand that our industry is now at a breaking point physically and more importantly mentally, and to be quite frank we are now having suicides come to light," he said.

On Jan. 7, Premier Jason Kenney said the current provincial restrictions intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus would remain in place until at least Jan. 21 "given the fact that our case numbers, hospitalizations and positivity rate for testing remains high."

'No clear end in sight'

The association says while it supported the temporary partial lockdown as it was enacted last month, "with no clear end in sight and a lack of supporting data, it is difficult justifying having some industries closed while others remain open," the open letter said.

The group wants the government to allow restaurants to resume dine-in service with strong risk mitigation measures and to commit to no further shutdowns.

"The restaurant industry cannot be unfairly targeted and villainized moving forward," the letter said.

Association vice-president and Calgary restaurant owner Leslie Echino says hard numbers and clear targets are needed.

"What's it going to take to enable us to reopen? Is it going to be the R-factor? Is it going to be hospitalizations? We need clear ways to understand when we're going to open," she said.

"We all need targets. And I understand that it is scary out there for a lot of people, but we need to know what's going to happen and when.

"We need to employ people. We pay taxes. We need to provide our staff. They're dealing with a lot of hardships. These are blue collar workers. I'm a blue collar worker. We don't have the ability or luxury to work from home."

Echino also says hospitality businesses need one week's notice prior to re-opening to rehire staff and order inventory.