Restaurant owners call on province for financial support after losing thousands of dollars from latest liquor curfew

Nathan Newman, who owns The Derrick Gin Mill & Kitchen in Calgary can only describe the latest round of COVID-19 restrictions as a devastating blow to his business.

“It’s definitely a nice little haymaker and it’s not sustainable to say the least,” he said.

“I would just love an explanation of why 10 p.m. is when the liquor curfew should be implemented. People are just going to leave this place and go to somewhere that’s not monitored and that’s been proven in the past.”

Newman adds that he is losing thousands of dollars each night because of restrictions on his liquor service, which amounts to about 35 per cent of his total bottom line.

The Derrick, like many other restaurants has also had to cancel a number of its live music events and scale down its staff.

“I don't know what I'm gonna have to do with our staff.  I know we had a lot of entertainment that I have to probably have some hard conversations with right now and they've done nothing wrong to deserve these things.”

Meanwhile, other businesses like The Palomino Smokehouse are taking matters into their own hands by requiring all guests to provide proof of double vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of live music events.

General manager Arlen Smith said his business shouldn’t have to abide by the curfew and noted that public funding of $100 each for unvaccinated people to get their COVID shot is not a fair solution.

“These new restrictions unfairly targeted the hospitality industry with the taxpayer, with a curfew, yet our tax dollars are going to reward those who are unvaccinated,” Smith said.

“A temporary vaccine passport system will allow us to operate at full capacity and safely, and will help us move through this pandemic, and at the same time will motivate those were unvaccinated to go get vaccinations”

ALBERTA NDP PROPOSES FINANCIAL SUPPORT FOR SMALL BUSINESS

Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley outlined a proposal for financial support for small businesses on Thursday that she hopes Premier Jason Kenney will follow through on.

Notley added that her caucus is also continuing to advocate for the adoption of vaccine passports that would give venues a better chance to operate safely and without restrictions.

"I'm here to make a case with the establishment of a process where businesses could apply to Alberta Health for exemption if they have their own proof of the vaccine process,” she said.

“This will reward the businesses and the patrons who are one to keep each other safe.”

The NDP is specifically calling for the re-introduction of the provincial Small and Medium Enterprise Relaunch Grant (SMERG) for small businesses impacted by the fourth wave of COVID-19 to receive $25,000.

The proposal would also offer an additional $10,000 through SMERG to bars and restaurants already impacted by the 10 p.m. liquor service curfew.

Other initiatives include the reinstatement of the commercial eviction ban and a ban on all utility shutoffs for six months.

Lastly, Notley aims to provide a 50 per cent reduction on small business insurance costs and introduce a COVID-19 Risk Index – which has been demanded by chambers of commerce – to give businesses a proper warning of potential restrictions.

“Jason Kenney’s government went into hiding as the fourth wave of COVID-19 surged,” Notley said.

“Now, we have more cases than Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes combined. This will put a chill effect on so many businesses that were only just getting back on their feet. Customers will stay away, revenue will plummet and jobs will be lost.”

ALBERTA HOSPITALITY ASSOCIATION CONSULTING LAWYERS OVER ALCOHOL CURFEW

The Alberta Hospitality Association (AHA), which represents the province’s hospitality industry, is seeking legal advice to ensure its owners and workers aren’t unfairly targeted.

“We were completely caught off guard and again leading up to the announcement there was no engagement from the government and this caused a high level of mental health and anxiety issues,” Tsu said.

“Every restaurant wants to make sure that public safety is number one, but at the same time, without actual evidence or data to back these curfews up, restaurants are going to need financial support.”

Tsu adds that the average restaurant is losing anywhere from 50 to 85 per cent of its sales right now as a result of the latest government restrictions.

UCP YET TO COMMIT FINANCIAL SUPPORT

CTV News learned Thursday that members of the Alberta Hospitality Association were meeting with the province’s Ministry of Jobs, Economy, and Innovation.

Restaurant owners are demanding assistance as they struggle to make ends meet, but no such financial commitment has been made to offer any support from the UCP government.

“We’ve been engaging heavily with the industry and we’re currently considering our options and at this point no decision has been made,” said press secretary Justin Brattinga.

“Throughout the pandemic, Alberta has provided the highest level of support to small and medium businesses, including over 125,000 businesses that received support through the SME Relaunch Grant, which had nearly $1 billion allocated to its budget.”

On Friday, health minister Tyler Shandro recognized business owners and operators who have been forced to pivot multiple times over the last year and a half.

“We know that this is disruptive to your operations and we appreciate your willingness to continue to adapt in the interest of protecting your staff and protecting your patrons.”

His ministry declined to comment further.