Acceleration of Stage 2 brings relief, challenges to Calgary businesses

The surprise announcement that Stage 2 of Alberta’s economic relaunch has been moved up to Friday is causing some headaches for Calgary business owners.

'All businesses are going to have to adapt'

Urban Athlete in northwest Calgary will reopen under the new Stage 2 guidelines while also still offering some of the virtual services it created during the COVID-19 lockdown. (Google Street View)

The surprise announcement that Stage 2 of Alberta's economic relaunch has been moved up to Friday is causing some headaches for Calgary business owners.

Stage 2 had been set to begin on June 19. But on Tuesday, Premier Jason Kenney said Stage 2 of the relaunch will go into effect for the entire province on Friday.

And he announced that several of the activities that were planned for Stage 3 will now be brought forward into Stage 2, including the reopening of gyms.

That was welcome news for many business owners, even if the unexpected announcement is causing some logistical problems. 

Kohl Kehler, who owns Urban Athlete, says the schedule change makes things a bit tough, but they're adapting quickly.

"Now everybody is going to hold their breath in and push on into the unknown just like we did when everything closed up," he said.

"Obviously, the people who are returning to work out next week will be returning to a different environment than they left on March 14."

Kehler says he's taken several steps to ensure staff and clients are kept safe, including Plexiglas partitions at the front and extra cleaning procedures.

"All businesses are going to have to adapt. We're looking to keep some of our virtual classes and whatnot … so people can stay fit at home if they don't feel well or if they don't feel like they can return," he said.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, says specific guidance for operators of fitness centres will draw a line between high- and low-intensity activities, with more physical distance between participants required for high-intensity training.

Personal services such as spas can open their doors this week, too. 

But Samantha Trinh, who owns Mint Nails & Spa Lounge, says there has been a lack of direction from Alberta Health Services, and that the province launching Stage 2 a week ahead of schedule has further upended her plans. 

"To call all of our staff back and give them four days notice is a little short," she said. "But at the end of the day, it's up to each business owner to open when they choose to and when they are ready, I guess."

Trinh says her business will operate at half capacity for now, and she's installed Plexiglas shields for extra protection against the COVID-19 virus.

Operating at half capacity won't be sustainable for very long, she says, especially given that the cost of her supplies have gone up fivefold because of extra demand for alcohol, gloves and masks during the pandemic.

"Alcohol used to cost $9 a gallon. It's $50 now," she said. "Because everyone wants alcohol to make hand sanitizer, so that's gone up.… Gloves used to be $8.50. Those are going up 200 per cent."

With files from Elise von Scheel