Calgary

Some Calgary business owners vow to keep doors open despite new public health restrictions

Some Calgary gym and restaurant owners are pushing back against new public health restrictions and vowing to keep their doors open to customers.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw says staying open could hurt Alberta's communities during this critical third wave

A number of businesses in Calgary have publicly declared they will not comply with new public health restrictions that went into effect April 8. (Helen Pike/CBC)

Some Calgary gym and restaurant owners are pushing back against new COVID-19 public health restrictions and vowing to keep their doors open to customers.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced Tuesday that the province would return to Step 1 restrictions to try to slow the spread of highly contagious variants of the coronavirus. The restrictions apply to restaurants, gyms and libraries. 

Sweat Science, a boxing gym based in the southeast Calgary of Inglewood, publicly announced it will continue classes.

Owner Dustin Sutley believes other gym owners will do the same. 

He said they are staying open for the mental health of their community in a release to media.

Emily Slaneff, who is with the Alberta Coalition of the Fitness Industry Council of Canada, said she believes gyms like Sweat Science are in the minority.

"I don't think that's totally fair, I don't want the entire industry to be painted in a negative light."

Variant cases surging

As COVID-19 cases surge — with variant cases now making more than 44.8 per cent of total active cases and Alberta reporting its highest new case numbers this year at 1,429 — Dr. Deena Hinshaw appealed to Albertans to take heed of new restrictions.

At a news conference Thursday, Hinshaw said business owners who flout the new restrictions are putting the entire community at risk.

"What I would say to those individuals who are planning on defying the public health orders, I would ask them to consider our current situation," Hinshaw said, adding that there is a graduated enforcement policy for those who defy the orders.

"I would again call on people to look at the evidence and look at what's happened in other countries when COVID-19 and variants in particular have gotten out of control and to remember that it is now we have to act if we wait to act until our ICUs are overflowing it will be far too late."

Kevin Young, owner of Benny's Breakfast Bar in southeast Calgary, says it comes down to a decision: closing for good, or continuing despite new restrictions. (Helen Pike/CBC)

For the owner of Benny's Breakfast Bar in southeast Calgary, it's not that simple. Kevin Young said he plans to stay open, but it's not an easy decision.

"It's a double-edged sword because if stay open we're defying, and if I close, I don't know if I can actually afford to open up again," said Young.

Young said he has followed all AHS directives for the past year, including spending thousands on plexiglass dividers, PPE and specialized cleaning chemicals.

"It's come to that line that I have nothing left to give, and I have to take a stand," he said. 

"There are the naysayers … but it's not their business, they're not the ones that have lost their livelihood, and my staff are suffering financially as well."

Young says if all retailers including big-box stores like Walmart were ordered to go curbside, he'd be willing to re-evaluate.

"Give me some data that makes sense, and not just forcing the restaurant industry to shut down because we're the easiest to attack, and the simplest to shut down," he said. "It just makes no sense."

With files from Helen Pike and Pamela Fieber

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