Alberta businesses want to remind their customers, and those looking for work, that rigorous health standards remain in place with the relaunch of the “Welcome Back” campaign.
Alberta Small Brewers Association, Alberta Hospitality Association and Alberta Craft Distillers Association originally launched the campaign in November 2021.
The program establishes small, local Alberta businesses as safe spaces with a dedication to higher-level protocols to ensure staff and guest safety and health standards.
Businesses signed up for the program have pledged to promote the mental health and well-being of their staff, incorporate a high standard of cleaning and sanitization standards, and to implement proactive and responsive plans to health concerns within their business.
Brennen Wowk, owner of Bo’s Bar and Stage and Alberta Hospitality Association vice-president, said the initiative highlights how throughout the pandemic these businesses have continually worked to modify operations to create safe environments for customers and staff.
“We have proven that we try our best to create safe environments for our team members, plus the customers walking into our businesses. We’ve been doing that, and we’ll continue to do that moving forward,” Wowk said.
He said these businesses are community orientated and in some cases “the heartbeat” of communities where folks come together for shared experiences, to have fun and meet new people.
“We’re hoping to bring customers back to the industries, employees back to the industries. Just bring it back to what it once was.”
Wowk said the industry is definitely in need of workers.
“We went through six sets of closures that affected operations that resulted in layoffs and as a result, some people moved on, some people have looked at these industries as maybe not as viable as they once were.”
But restaurants and breweries have been around for a long time, and will be sticking around to be successful for everyone — customers, staff and operators, Wowk said.
Blair Berdusco, executive director of the Alberta Small Brewers Association, said businesses are busier since COVID-19 restrictions were lifted earlier this year.
“There was definitely concern it could have gone the other way depending on people’s appetite for going out. But we have seen a lot of uptick so it’s been really great,” Berdusco said.
She said the small and medium-sized businesses involved in the campaign support local agriculture, bands, and sports teams so frequenting them supports the local community.
Berdusco hoped that people travelling around Alberta this summer will make it a point to visit craft breweries. Since 2018 there’s more than double the number of craft brewers, and quite a few opened during the pandemic.
“We’re excited to welcome them to the craft beer scene in Alberta, and to let a lot more people know that they are around.”