'We're thrilled': Stage 2 starts Thursday, restaurants and attractions prepare for busy weekend

Stage 2 of Alberta’s Open for Summer Plan starts Thursday, easing dining restrictions and marking the reopening of some Edmonton attractions.

Restaurants may seat up to six people at a table, indoors or outdoors, and dining is no longer restricted to households only. The province says physical distancing and other restrictions still apply.

“With more than 67 per cent of eligible Albertans vaccinated with a first dose, a fully reopened Alberta is within our sight,” Premier Jason Kenney said in a press release Wednesday.

“We are putting the worst of this pandemic behind us for good and moving into a bright summer and an even brighter future.”

The premier is still encouraging Albertans to get vaccinated so the province can fully reopen this summer.

WHAT IS REOPENING IN EDMONTON?

West Edmonton Mall announced the reopening of the following attractions: Ed’s Bowling, Professor WEM’s Adventure Golf, Marine Life, Ice Palace, DRIVE, Alien Outbreak Escape Room, Dragon’s Tale Blacklight Miniature Golf.

“We’re thrilled, we’re ecstatic, we’re happy, we’re all of the above and so much more to be opening again,” said Lily Lein, parks and attractions marketing manager at WEM.

Galaxyland and WEM’s World Waterpark will reopen shortly after the Stage 2 relaunch.

Attractions will be open with one-third capacity, and all tickets must be booked online to guarantee a spot.

Theatres across the province will also reopen starting on Thursday. Landmark Cinemas CEO Bill Walker says staff are excited to get back to work after being shut down in December 2020.

“We felt we were unfairly closed and severely restricted through some of this,” said Walker. “While capacity is limited, we’re also looking forward to a reduction in those restrictions as we get into July.”

However, he added: “I don’t imagine there’s a moment where we just rip the Band-Aid off and say, ‘The rules are gone.’”

Capacity restrictions will be similar to last summer, with 33 per cent of fire code capacity allowed in the theatre at Landmark.

Movie times have been staggered to allow for increased cleaning and to allow movie-goers to enter and exit the theatres with less people crowding the lobbies, Walker explained.

He added people can still buy tickets in person, but encourages Albertans to buy online to guarantee availability of tickets.

“We’ve sold about 60 per cent of the available seats that we had for Thursday,” said Walker.

He says the most popular movies will likely sell out this weekend as people are excited to get back into the theatre.

Walker adds that because of the large HVAC systems in their theatres and the distancing between seats, movie-goers can feel safe talking off their mask as they enjoy their concession snacks.

“We’ve never been implicated in a transmission of COVID through this whole pandemic,” said Walker. “Frankly, taking your mask off and just escaping and enjoying something that feels completely normal was really missed and something people enjoyed last summer and fall.”

Stage 3 of Alberta’s reopening plan is expected to begin in late June or early July and requires 70 per cent of eligible Albertans to have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.