A Saskatoon bar is seeking clarity on new public health orders and says the Ministry of Health is inappropriately targeting two licensed establishments in the city.
Last week, Saskatchewan Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab and Health Minister Jim Reiter announced new restrictions on Saskatoon nightclubs, restricting the sale of alcohol until 10 p.m., and mandating an 11 p.m. closure.
A nightclub is defined as an establishment at which the main activities are selling liquor and providing music to which patrons can dance, the ministry said in an email to CTV News. Food sales are not their focus, whereas food sales would be a focus for many pubs, restaurants or lounges.
“This order is not intended to capture lounges, pubs, restaurants, private clubs, or liquor manufacturing facilities that have tasting rooms. This would include taverns,” the ministry outlined. “Pubs, restaurants or lounges with dance floors must close those areas and operate under the Restaurant and Licensed Establishment Guidelines in the Re-Open Saskatchewan Plan.”
Joe Jackson, general manager of Pink Nightclub in Saskatoon, said the public health orders are wide-reaching.
“This definition in its entirety can be applicable to any and all venues within the city of Saskatoon as every venue plays background music and sells liquor,” Jackson said.
Jackson said a Saskatchewan Health Authority inspector visited Pink on Friday and found they did not meet the definition of a nightclub.
“It was concluded our venue and Outlaws Country Rock Bar both fall outside the definition of “nightclub” and could therefore keep regular business hours. However, amidst the uncertainty pertaining to the bylaws, we have both abided by the newly mandated hours of operation. This decision was not made easily, as Halloween is our most lucrative weekend of the year. However it was made to remain in good standing with the SHA and in good standing in our guests’ opinion,” Jackson said in an email.
Since Pink resumed operations on June 8 following the economic shutdown this spring, Jackson said the bar has eliminated the dancefloor, enhanced cleaning protocols and moved cash registers, tables and furniture to ensure two metres of physical distance inside the establishment.
“We have been operating for 145 days during the COVID-19 pandemic. In that time, we have had no confirmed exposures within our venue. We credit this success to the strict adherence to all the regulations implemented,” Jackson said.
Jackson added he feels his bar has been discriminated against by the SHA, while other establishments where COVID-19 outbreaks and exposures occurred are not being held to the same standard.
“We believe these regulations should also be applied to all venues, not just Pink and Outlaws.”