CALGARY -- Walk into many restaurants in Alberta and there's a chance you'll encounter groups of adults sitting together. What would be a normal part of social life in other times, is  currently in violation of public health orders.

Those orders have put many restaurants, already struggling to get by, in a difficult spot. Management find themselves turning away business and playing the heavy, or turning a blind eye and taking a chance that everyone is healthy.

The problem caught Alberta Agriculture Minister Devin Dreeshan this week, after he tweeted a photo of himself and a restaurant owner in Sylvan Lake sitting at the same table without wearing masks.

The social media post was quickly deleted.

After several requests for comment, the minister's office released a statement Tuesday evening.

"Yesterday I joined a restaurant owner prior to her opening for lunch," it read, adding Dreeshen was there to congratulate the owner on an award nomination. "I regret not following all of the restrictions and can assure you it won't happen again."

In the statement, Dreeshen voiced his support for small business owners.

The minor flap comes as Alberta experiences a rise in COVID-19 infections, along with rising rates of variants of concern. So far there has been no indication that further restrictions are being considered to curb the rising third wave of infections.

Meanwhile, in the face of a similar trend, British Columbia has imposed a three-week lockdown, closing restaurants for in-person dining and shutting down Whistler-Blackcomb Ski Resort.

The decision came after the coastal province announced a new single-day record of 936 new COVID cases over the weekend.