Saskatchewan is entering New Year's Eve celebrations with 735 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, the highest number recorded since the pandemic began. Some businesses have cancelled events as the end of the year draws nearer, while others have reduced capacity and many continue as scheduled.
Bushwakker Brewing Company in Regina is hosting a New Year's non-event for its 16th year. It's often a busier crowd than normal, according to the brewpub's bar and marketing manager Grant Frew, but he doesn't expect much mingling.
Unlike other bars and nightclubs, it rings in the new year with an intentional absence of celebration. Frew says their customers prefer the lack of fanfare on New Year's Eve.
Despite some cancellations of larger groups, Frew says , it's still continuing as scheduled with smaller groups filling in. He wasn't sure whether the cancellations were due to rising COVID-19 case counts or other factors, such as "minus 51 with the wind chill," he said about the weather.
"Looking at the number of reservations, it's a nice number but I wouldn't say we're going to have people lined up out the door," Frew said.
He was surprised the provincial government didn't announce new public health measures during its news conference on Thursday afternoon, but it was also a relief as a manager in the hospitality industry.
"It's really hard with this variant … there's so much information out there, I think that's why we don't try to overthink it," Frew said.
"We're following the rules that are laid out by the provincial government to the best of our ability, if not exceeding them."
Amigos Cantina in Saskatoon chose to cancel both of their events that led up to the New Year.
In a post on Twitter, Amigos said it was cancelling its karaoke night on Dec. 30 and New Year's Eve Hootenanny "due to the rising cases of COVID-19."
The cantina is scheduled to remain open for dine-in or takeout and the tickets for Friday's event will be refunded, it said.
A spokesperson for the cantina could not be reached for comment before publication time.
New Year's events continue
Some restaurants and many nightclubs in the two Saskatchewan cities aren't halting events in the face of COVID-19.
Birmingham's Vodka and Ale House in eastern Regina is walking a middle ground by reducing the number of tickets sold to their New Year's Eve event.
Participants buy fake money to gamble and bid on prizes throughout the night. The restaurant had considered cancelling the event, but instead reduced capacity.
It had originally prepared for 200 tickets to be sold, but reduced it to 100 a couple of weeks prior to the event, according to general manager Levi Warren.
"[COVID-19] is always in the back of our minds, right? That's just how it's been lately … we always want to make sure that everybody is wearing their masks when they're not seated, or when they're [not] eating or drinking," Warren said.
Current public health orders require that people remain masked indoors, unless seated, and that they provide proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test.