Outdoor patios were busy on Tuesday as diners took advantage of gorgeous weather and the lifting of health restrictions that had banned restaurant dining for three weeks.
Business owners were not only happy to see restrictions eased, they were also pleased that Premier Jason Kenney has laid out a clear reopening road map outlining what caseload and vaccine targets must be hit for restrictions to be lifted further.
“This is an exciting time,” said Bo’s Bar and Grill owner Brennan Wowk. “For the first time in almost 18 months we have a pretty clear path forward.
“A lot of it has just been bringing the team back and getting ready to move into hyperdrive,” the business owner said about reopening.
As a director on the Alberta Hospitality Association, Wowk lobbied the province to give the industry more information about what was guiding the province’s health restrictions and what needs to happen for businesses to re-open partially and then fully.
Kenney unveiled a three-stage road map for lifting health restrictions and returning to normal last week.
As of Tuesday, outdoor dining at tables of up to four people from the same household is allowed. The rules around other outdoor gatherings and activities and events such as weddings were also eased. Personal and wellness services were also allowed to reopen by appointment.
Stage 2, which could come as early as June 10, would see restrictions further eased. Indoor and outdoor public dining would be allowed with up to six people at a table.
“What I appreciated was that when the premier made his address to the province they provided a clear path forward, but also provided data to support why they thought the path forward was possible,” said Wowk.
Staff, who have to contend with several closures since March 2020, are pleased to be back at work.
“We’ve kept a lot of our team intact. It’s been a trying year for everyone, staff, management and ownership.
“I think there’s excitement and there’s renewed excitement with our team that we are not just opening but we’re once again able to do the things we once did.”
For Bo’s, that means bringing back live music and other events. They have already announced shows for the fall and are booking acts through 2022.
“We have a lot of events and different kinds of concepts we want to roll out over the next four or five months. I think the team sees that as the first time we haven’t been handcuffed with these restrictions that limit what we can and can’t do.”
Jason Volk, who owns three Red Deer Tommy Gun’s Original Barbershops, is also glad to see his staff making a living again.
“It’s very important for our business and more important for all of our employees,” said Volk, who also owns Safari Spa and Salon. “They’ve really struggled through this.
“The employment insurance and the benefits do not replace what they make.”
A big part of hair stylists’ income comes from tipping so the shutdown has had a big impact, he said. Many are younger people. Some have children and are single parents.
“It’s just been really tough for them financially because of the pandemic.”
Volk also liked the details in the latest reopening plan.
“(Kenney) told Albertans what needs to happen, and if this happens this is where we’re going to be. It’s clear that people need to get vaccinated if they want to get back to normal.
“I really like that. I constantly watch the numbers now and see how we’re tracking.”