High River's Underground Supper Club shut down by AHS
'Alberta Health Services had issues with the fact that it was not a commercial kitchen'
High River resident Paula Elliot was surprised to learn this week that Alberta Health Services will not let her continue operating her underground supper club due to concerns about the preparation of the food.
"We had been operating for three years and generally we did it every second Saturday throughout the year," says Elliot.
"The evening would progress with generally somebody singing or performing for their supper so there was always live entertainment and at the end of the meal my friends would give a donation, pay what you want, towards the cost of the food and the groceries."
They've gone on to say they don't even approve of people sharing food.- Paula Elliot, club organizer
After the flood in June, Elliot says the supper club became more important for the community.
"We were all displaced for so long and so I hadn't had a supper club I think since May and so we gathered together in a hall and the numbers were bigger for this particular occasion only because we needed to get together so desperately."
Recently AHS contacted Elliot and asked her to close down the supper club.
"My understanding is that there was a local business that did complain viewing what we do as competition," she said.
"The food was being prepared from my domestic kitchen here in my home and Alberta Health Services had issues with the fact that it was not a commercial kitchen."
The operation was not started to make money, says Elliot.
"People don't treat it like a soup kitchen. They contribute a reasonable amount but that amount does go toward the groceries and I do at the same time hire three young adolescents who serve the meal and clean up and do a lot of prep work.... So there's no money being made really except for my lovely little adolescents."
'They were pretty heavy handed'
Elliot says AHS was clear about their policies.
"They were pretty heavy handed. It's a no deal ... they've gone on to say they don't even approve of people sharing food, like giving food away."
This was not Elliot's first encounter with AHS either.
"There was an evacuation centre in Nanton and the residents of Nanton were contributing food that they were cooking and preparing in their own homes and Alberta Health Services got heavy handed with that as well."
Elliot hopes to find a way to continue into the future despite the response.
"We really don't want to go subterranean on this. We would like to do it so that we don't have to hide."
"It was called underground because it was in my basement. It wasn't because there was some clandestine thing going on."