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Caution Abounds as Alberta Eases Raft of COVID-19 Restrictions

CALGARY—Restaurateur Leslie Echino laughs at the notion that even as Alberta lifts many more COVID-19 restrictions her business could return to anywhere close to normal.

Restaurants, bars, lounges, and cafes will no longer be limited to half capacity starting today, although they will still have to follow distancing rules and seat no more than six people per table.

That means Echino wont be able to squeeze any more customers into Annabelles Kitchens 70-square-metres of space in Calgarys Marda Loop neighbourhood.

“It doesnt change one single spot in my restaurant,” she said. “I cannot put any more bums in seats.”

The restaurant had a pre-pandemic capacity of 52, but can only hold 18 to 20 with physical distancing. Reducing the required spacing by half a metre, as other countries have done, could help accommodate a few more.

Overhead costs such as rent and utilities have been deferred, but not reduced. Echino said the restaurant would be devastated without a patio that doubles its capacity and draws customers in warm weather.

She added she doesnt see the restaurant industry ever returning to its traditional dine-in model, and businesses will have to diversify long term with catering, curb-side pickup, and delivery.

Arts Commons, a multi-venue theatre complex in downtown Calgary, is also rethinking its post-pandemic future, even though some performances can resume.

Instrumental concerts are being allowed, but respiratory droplets that might carry the novel coronavirus mean there still wont be vocal performances. Performing groups can have up to 50 members.

Arts Commons president Alex Sarian said theres no timeline for shows to resume.

“The last thing we want, both as an institution and as a sector, is for a second wave to be traced back to an artistic gathering,” he said. “That would be devastating.”

Sarian said Arts Commons is exploring ways to showcase the arts this summer through outdoor or livestreamed events—an especially important offering with travel still largely off the table.

“While were grateful to be given the opportunity to start thinking about reopening, we also have to look at our business model and figure out collectively when does it truly make sense to really start opening the floodgates?”

Indoor recreation, fitness and sports facilities can also reopen, including gyms, arenas, and pools.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said not to expect any city-run facilities to be running today, aside from perhaps some outdoor dry pads for sports like ball hockey.

“We laid off 15 percent of our staff. We didnt hire our seasonal workers,” he saiRead More – Source

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