A sign instructs people to wear masks in downtown Calgary on Friday, Oct. 30, 2020. Pub and restaurant owners are trying to figure out how to comply with a stricter COVID-19 measure in Alberta that dictates only six people from the same household can sit at one table. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

A sign instructs people to wear masks in downtown Calgary on Friday, Oct. 30, 2020. Pub and restaurant owners are trying to figure out how to comply with a stricter COVID-19 measure in Alberta that dictates only six people from the same household can sit at one table. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Brewpub owner pleased Alberta not closing sit-down dining as COVID-19 cases soar

Alberta’s caseload of COVID-19 infections has been growing for weeks

Restaurants are working out how they can follow one of Alberta’s tightened COVID-19 measures by ensuring sit-down diners are part of the same household.

“At this point, it’s looking like it’s an honour system,” said Ernie Tsu, an owner of Trolley 5 Restaurant and Brewery and founding board member of the Alberta Hospitality Association.

The association was to have a meeting with government officials Wednesday, during which Tsu was expecting to get the “refined details” on how restaurants should enforce the rule.

The tougher measure, one of an array of restrictions Premier Jason Kenney announced Tuesday, retains an existing limit of six people per table, but adds that they must be from the same immediate household. People who live alone can meet with the same two people outside their household.

Tsu said most of the customers who have been frequenting Trolley 5 have been at tables for two or four.

He said he’s pleased restaurants have not been closed to sit-down customers, as has been the case in some other provinces.

“The majority of the restaurants across Alberta are very happy that they’re able to stay open right now,” he said.

“We still have to make sure that everyone understands that these restaurants are still paying full rent while employing Albertans and trying to work with diminished capacities.”

Staff members take temperatures and help with contact tracing by asking customers to provide phone numbers at the door, he added.

Restaurateur Leslie Echino is contemplating tables of no more than four to make it easier to comply with the new measure at her two Annabelle’s Kitchen locations.

“The proof is really impossible,” she said. “We’re just going to have to be really diligent and communicate.”

Echino employed 58 staff at her restaurants before the pandemic, but now that’s down to 24. Sales this year are down by half compared with last year. She was able to reinstate employee health benefits after a five-month pause when businesses were able to reopen to diners in June after a widespread shutdown.

“We’re doing our best and trying to be creative and trying to keep our staff employed as long as we can.”

Echino said she appreciates that Kenney is “sticking his neck out for small business” by taking into account the financial and mental toll of more severe restrictions.

“They really sound like they’re doing their best to keep us around,” she said.

Alberta’s caseload of COVID-19 infections has been growing for weeks. It reported 1,115 new cases on Tuesday — the sixth consecutive day with numbers above the 1,100 mark.

Earlier this month, the province forced bars and restaurants to stop serving booze by 10 p.m. and to close by 11 p.m.

Kenney has said targeted health restrictions are the best way to keep COVID-19 from burdening the health-care system while keeping the economy from collapsing.

Others, including many doctors, infectious disease specialists and the Opposition NDP, have called for sharp, short economic shutdowns, arguing that if the COVID-19 wave isn’t stopped, there won’t be an economy left to save.

Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press

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