Cautious optimism in business community over reopening plan

·2 min read

News that provincial health restrictions could be nearly completely relaxed by July was being cautiously welcomed in the city following Alberta announcing its summer reopening plan Wednesday.

After being on the frontlines working in care facilities for the last year, Carol Nelson says she likely won’t be hanging up her mask until “our numbers are down to pretty much nothing.”

The impact of more than a year of restrictions has left Nelson with some concerns about the reopening plan.

“It’s a little scary. Hopefully, everything works out OK,” she said. “Hopefully, people are cautious with gatherings.

Saying that, Nelson is looking forward to visiting her son and mother-in-law in Saskatchewan, something the pandemic restrictions haven’t allowed, along with prohibiting her attendance at the funeral services of three family members.

For Jen Schmunk, co-owner of Grit City Distillery with her husband, the optimism of being able to open in a limited capacity for in-person dining as soon as next week is tempered by past relaunch efforts.

“I’m not going to be surprised if it changes,” Schmunk said of the latest plan. “Hopefully everyone continues with vaccinations and health restrictions.”

But as far as being able to open the patio next week, “we’re happy with that as a start.”

One of the biggest challenges over the past year has been dealing with the need to lay off staff, then rehire them only to lay them off again.

Restaurants may have been hit hard but gyms have reaped the whirlwind of the global pandemic in the province with most being shuttered for extensive periods.

But that hasn’t dampened the optimism for Orangetheory Fitness’s managing partner Skye Kaiss.

“Today is a good day,” he said.

He says the fitness industry is full of enthusiastic individuals who have had to ease back their inherent high-energy throttle and hunker down over the past months.

And while there has been optimism of a return, “the light at the end of the tunnel has consistently been a train.”

Despite that, Kaiss hasn’t lost hope, saying the gym will reopen with the health and safety of staff being the foremost priority, and “we’re going to do that as fast as humanly possible.”

But the fitness chain has seen losses across its 100 gyms in Canada range from between $10,000 and $25,000 a month. That has Kaiss calling for extended relief from both the federal and provincial governments to last for the next year.

Alex McCuaig, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Medicine Hat News