Dine-in restrictions frustrate some Alberta restaurant owners, doctors call for stricter measures

The latest round of restrictions to combat the spread of COVID-19 in Alberta is sparking major concerns as some restaurant owners plan to defy public health orders. 

Restaurants have been ordered to shut down all indoor dining beginning Friday. Patio service will be permitted. 

Takeout orders are still allowed, but the Alberta Hospitality Association (AHA) says those sales represent just five per cent of the industry and the end of indoor dining could potentially result in hundreds more owners having to close their restaurants. 

"As the province's third highest employer in the private sectors, restaurants will not service a lockdown," said Ernie Tsu, AHA president. "You’re talking about 40 to 45 per cent of the industry that does not have patios. Malls still remain open and they talk about capacity, but nobody has been checking capacity there.

"If the province wants a true solution to the problem, why aren’t they locking all of us down?"

Tsu adds that mental health is also an issue that's not being talked about as COVID-19 fatigue is starting to set in for many Albertans. 

The frustration has resulted in restaurants such as Bennys Breakfast Bar in southeast Calgary announcing it would remain open for indoor dining, even after restrictions come into place at noon on Friday.

"It's mostly a financial decision at this point. We've been closed two other times, we've followed all of the rules," Bennys owner Kevin Young told CTV News.

He said takeout and patio service won't bring in enough revenue to keep his restaurant's doors open, especially as a breakfast place.

"The well is pretty dry right now. And if I close, Bennys may never open again," Young said.

"Who is going to buy a restaurant that is closed during COVID?"

At his Tuesday COVID-19 update, Premier Jason Kenney said financial support for industries affected by the latest round of restrictions will be announced in the days to come. 

Doctors Calling for Stricter Health Measures

While some industries continue to cry foul over additional restrictions, a group of Alberta doctors says more measures are needed to stop the growing spread of COVID-19. 

The Edmonton Zone Medical Staff Association (EZMSA), along with the Calgary and Area Medical Staff Association (CMSA), are sounding the alarm over rising case numbers and calling for an immediate circuit breaker lockdown. 

Modelling data from the EZMSA suggests that in a week from now, the number of COVID variant cases per day will double. 

"This suggests targeted restrictions are going to be ineffective, but it also suggests we are missing significant numbers of positive people in the public," said Dr. Craig Jenne, a professor in the department of microbiology, immunology and infectious diseases at University of Calgary.

"Our intensive care units have almost tripled in a matter of a month, so we are once again facing this critical health burden," Dr. Jenne said.

The group says a circuit-breaker lockdown should be called to help bring numbers down, before the public health system is overwhelmed.