Small businesses proceed with 'cautious optimism' for Stage 1

Various small businesses around the province kicked off the new month in Stage 1 of Alberta’s “Open for Summer” plan.

Following the third wave of restrictions, which lasted three weeks, outdoor dining, personal services by appointment and additional organized gatherings were allowed to reopen to the public on Tuesday.

While the last 14 months have been a long haul for many, Annie Dormuth, the Alberta provincial affairs director for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, said she can only describe the mood amongst small businesses as “cautious optimism.”

“This is not the first reopening plan that they’ve seen,” she said.

“I’m hoping this is the last time we have to deal with anything like this,” Sasan Razaey, co-owner of Studio Hare, added.

'WE’RE GETTING CLOSE TO THE END OF IT'

Dormuth told CTV News Edmonton 27 per cent of Alberta’s small businesses are concerned about having to close their doors permanently as the average debt for Alberta small business has accumulated to $240,000, an amount she says is far higher then the national average.

“It has been tough,” Razaey told CTV News.

“I know a lot of people have shutdown. So it is scary times, but we’re getting close to the end of it, I think.”

“It does feel a lot different this time around,” Kamira Milliken, assistant manager at Blowers and Grafton, explained.

“It feels a lot safer, I feel a lot safer, our guests feel a lot safer knowing that their staff is vaccinated and their friends are vaccinated.”

Milliken said the local support is what has kept them afloat. She said when they opened up the patio at 11 a.m., they had their first table seating right at 11:02 a.m.

“We’re super grateful,” she exclaimed.

Razaey expressed a similar sentiment, telling CTV News he’s been “fully booked” at the salon.

“Luckily we have really good clients,” he added. “They’ve been coming back, and consistently which is awesome.”

'IT'S LIKE A BREATH OF FRESH AIR'

According to Dormuth, more then half of Alberta small businesses said it would take more than a year to get back to profitability. Dormuth said it was an early estimation before extended restrictions took effect, and a third lockdown.

“It’s important to recognize for some businesses they were never really open at all,” she said.

However, Milliken feels like this was the “perfect time” to reopen. The weather is on the upswing and Albertans can fully enjoy the patios — an expense many establishments invested in this year in order to operate.

“Having people back in the restaurant is something we’ve been looking forward to since they announced we were shutting down for another month,” she said.

“We felt it would be a smart move to have the biggest patio possible.”

Even though government grants have been helpful, Dormuth would like to see the provincial and federal supports continue.

While there is still a lot of uncertainty Razaey said this time around “it feels a lot less stressful.”

“It feels like people are ready to go back to being normal.”

“It’s like a breath of fresh air this go around,” Milliken added.

With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Touria Izri