Calgary service industry searches for answers as COVID-19 prompts layoffs and closures
Trolley 5 Brewpub on 17th Avenue announced Monday it was closing to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The decision affected nearly 70 employees, who were laid off on Tuesday.
CALGARY -- Questions remain surrounding how laid off employees will continue to be supported as several Calgary bars and restaurants close their doors amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Trolley 5 Brewpub on 17th Avenue announced its closure on Monday evening. A total of 68 employees were affected with the majority of part-time staff laid off Tuesday morning.
"The decision has been tough, not just for us, but for probably every single other restaurant and bar out there," said Ernie Tsu, owner of Trolley 5 Brewpub.
"No one wants to lay off, especially when you have a low turnover staff like we do or perhaps the Ship & Anchor, but from a public safety standpoint it’s better to lead than to follow."
The bar, like other voluntarily shut down venues in Calgary, is now trying to figure out how to roll out employment insurance packages.
In the case of restaurants that have closed, all staff members have direct access to employment insurance, but there are no details from the Alberta government on how paid leave will work.
Randi Collins, managing partner with YYC Employment Law, said all companies can do at this point is communicate as best as possible with current and former employees.
"The announcement that there’s going to be 14 days paid leave without further clarification of what the employer’s responsibilities are is leading to a lot of confusion at this point," said Collins.
"In regard to employers who are smaller in nature, there's a lot of concern from the employer side that they are not going to be able to pay or assist employees during that period of time."
Restaurants not ordered to close
The province is still allowing restaurants to operate as it continues discussions with health officials, but crowds have already been capped at a maximum of 250 people and restaurants are ordered to operate at only half their capacity.
Tsu was surprised by the province’s announcement to allow bars to operate, while encouraging Albertans to practice physical distancing at the same time.
"The province has to make decisions based on what’s coming from their own doctors and if their own doctors are making recommendations that non-essentials should be closed, then (restaurants) should be closed," Tsu said.
Meanwhile, the government of Ontario has called its own state of emergency, prompting the closure of restaurants and bars, and limiting service to delivery or take-out options.
Many Calgary restaurants are adjusting and offering delivery or takeout options as well.