The owners of numerous restaurants and bars in Olds and Sundre, Alberta, say they plan on staying open to dine-in service despite the return to Step 1 health protocols announced earlier this week by the provincial government.
At least five restaurants and bars in Olds as well as four or five in Sundre say they're going to defy the province’s latest COVID-19 restrictions by staying open for dine-in service.
On Tuesday, the government announced that the province was returning to Step 1 of the four-step framework for reopening. Under Step 1, among other measures, indoor, in-person restaurant, pub, lounge and cafe service is prohibited, while takeout, delivery and patio services remain allowed.
Garnet Greipl, who runs Tasty Thai restaurants in Olds and Sundre, is among the owners who plan to stay open.
Greipl says he simply couldn’t afford to close his doors again — for his bottom line and for the livelihood of the approximately 20 full- and part-time workers he employs between both locations.
“I need to look after myself, my livelihood and my people. There are no more government programs for my waitresses or my [other] employees. So, I don’t know how they’re supposed to survive,” he said April 8.
“But when my people aren’t making money and then I have to lay them off and call them back and then half of them leave, I’ve got to retrain. I don’t have money for that....this is crazy.
Greipl said what further aggravates him is that in his opinion, big box stores seem to be able to flout the rules with no government pushback.
He said he was in one such store recently and “there were no sanitation wipes there, there was nothing” and added that store is filled with people on weekends.
Chris Vardas, owner of Cedar’s Pub and Original T’s Family Restaurant in Sundre will also remain open for dine-in service.
“We can’t afford to shut it down,” said Vardas about dine-in service.
The cost of not only shutting down but then reopening over and over again is too great of a burden for owners to bear without any help, he said.
Making matters even worse, he said the provincial government is not providing an estimated timeline for the restrictions' duration or offering any financial assistance.
“Our power bills are still running, our gas bills are running, our town bills are still running — everything’s still running, but yet we’re not making the income to support it,” he said.
“If the government wants, they should maybe pay our bills at least, and our staff,” he said, wondering how he can be expected to lay off his 26 employees for the third time since the pandemic began.
The owners of Backwoods Bakery & Cafe in Sundre confirmed their intent to stay open for dine-in traffic, as well as Piros and Boondox. In Olds, Our Flames Restaurant and Lounge intends to remain open for dine-in as does Tracks Pub, Quiznos and Bulldog’s Saloon.
— With files from Simon Ducatel