A tale of two cafés: The other restaurant in Mirror, Alta., chooses to follow the COVID rulebook

While the Whistle Stop Cafe in Mirror, Alta., has drawn much attention for breaking health protocols, Mae's Kitchen, the hamlet's other restaurant, quietly serves customers following public health guidelines.

Mae's Kitchen is a quieter competitor to controversial Whistle Stop

Mae's Kitchen, a café in Mirror, Alta., has been quietly following public health guidelines. (Submitted by Mae's Kitchen)

Not far from the controversial Whistle Stop Cafe, another restaurant in the central Alberta hamlet of Mirror has been quietly going about its business.

Mae's Kitchen could never be described as a mirror image of the Whistle Stop, which has been in the news for months for its owner's stance against COVID-19 restrictions.

The café, 1.6 kilometres from the Whistle Stop in the community 70 kilometres northeast of Red Deer, has been quietly operating, following the public health rules and encouraging customers to do so as well.

"I just continue my business as normal," Annie Cummer, owner of Mae's Kitchen, told CBC Radio's Edmonton AM on Thursday. 

"It doesn't affect me in any way because I'm downtown Mirror. I have a very good clientele base of my own customers for the last 3½ years." 

On Saturday, Whistle Stop owner Chris Scott was arrested by RCMP after staging a protest despite a court injunction, which Cummer said was stressful for the community.

"You go around one corner and there's a policeman sitting there," Cummer said. "You go over to the other street corner and there's another policeman sitting there ... it's not what we all want it to see around here."

All the news coverage of the protests has negatively impacted the hamlet of 500 people, she said.

"It's not a good thing for our little town. Our little town was such a nice and peaceful little place."

The quiet hamlet is not used to the police presence, except for RCMP on regular patrols, she said. "We're quite happy with that," she said.

She said even before the pandemic, staff at Mae's Kitchen disinfected surfaces in between customers. The only difference now is that masks are worn, barriers are used when dine-in service is allowed, and hand sanitizer is available at the entrance and near the washrooms. 

"Folks have been pretty good about following the rules," Cummer said.

Cummer said sales have only been affected by the restrictions at times when dine-in service has been closed. Otherwise, it has been business as usual with her full staff working.

"When we're open for dining, we're doing just as good as we were when we first opened."

In an email, the Whistle Stop's owner criticized politicians who allow "legislation that enables individuals to strip our fundamental rights and freedoms away with the stroke of a pen, without due process."

It "reflects badly on them," Scott said.

Cummer said Scott has made his choice in refusing to back down. 

"Whatever he does now, he reaps the consequences," she said. 


Kashmala Fida Mohatarem is a reporter and associate producer with CBC Edmonton.