Calgary restaurants navigate business without pandemic restrictions

Alberta lifted nearly all its pandemic restrictions a week ago and Calgary council voted to repeal the city's mask bylaw on Monday — but that doesn't mean its business as usual in restaurants.

Staffing shortage among challenges facing industry

As summer goes into full swing, restaurant owners are navigating the changing rules and adjusting to the new normal. (Tiphanie Roquette/Radio-Canada)

Alberta lifted nearly all its pandemic restrictions a week ago with Calgary council following on Monday by repealing the city's mask bylaw. However, that doesn't mean it's back to business as usual in restaurants.

"We are very excited," said Karen Kho, co-owner of Empire Provisions and Lil Empire Burger, regarding the province's reopening.

"I would be remiss if I said it didn't come with its own unique set of challenges."

And while mandatory masking is now a thing of the past, you may still see them on restaurant workers.

At Lil Empire Burger, for example, staff have collectively agreed to continue wearing masks until they are all fully vaccinated, while at Empire Provisions the majority of the team have had two doses and feel comfortable going without.

"We just felt that after a year and a half of working under duress, it was necessary to really gauge the feelings of our staff on what that restriction lift meant to them," Kho told The Homestretch on Tuesday.

Masking for both staff and customers is still up to the businesses' personal discretion, and some have requested customers continue to wear them.

At the Ship and Anchor Pub, the Beltline establishment wrote on Twitter that it has decided to wait to remove the indoor masking requirement.

"Some staff are still waiting to receive their second dose … given that the situation continues to improve, as of July 12th masks will be welcomed but mot necessary," tweeted the pub.

In fact, a variety of businesses have opted to have staff and customers remain masked. 

The website, Safer Shopping & Services Network, listed 37 businesses that have requested mask wearing — four of which are cafes and restaurants.

Restaurants deal with staffing shortages

Across Canada, restaurants have had trouble with staffing and demand.

"We've worked with a skeleton crew for most of the pandemic and we are now in the same position as everyone else. I mean, this is a global issue right now," said Kho.

The restaurant owner says this has forced its employees to be more cautious with what they offer and whether they will have the same hours they did pre-pandemic.

"All of this is just so that we're not burning out the people that have kept our business alive over the last 18 months," she said.

The restaurant owner says she recognizes that, historically, staff have been underpaid and overworked, but now, she thinks this part of the industry will start to change.

For example, Kho says that in the past two weeks, she's added a recruitment package to both of her restaurants that includes health benefits.

"We're going to see a lot of businesses making some stronger offerings to get the quality and sort of cultural fit for their businesses."

With files from The Homestretch.


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