Central Alberta diner fears 'a slow death' from COVID-19 restrictions
CALGARY -- Along Alberta's Highway 21, northeast of Red Deer, lies the hamlet of Mirror, Alta.
It's also where the latest battle against the province's COVID-19 regulations wages.
The community, which has a population of 502 according to the latest census, has a variety of businesses serving the public, including a well-known and well-respected diner.
The Whistle Stop Café reopened to dine-in service Saturday, in contravention of the regulations set out by Alberta Health Services (AHS) and the Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw.
The restaurant posted the following statement on its Facebook page on Jan. 22.
"We are currently in contravention of the public health order AHS set forth (on) Dec. 12, 2020 and allowing dining in," the restaurant writes on Facebook. "I (am) personally committed to continuing to protest the unfair, poorly thought out, totalitarian, Charter rights infringing rules laid out by AHS and I'm asking that they review these rules and allow small business to survive just as they're allowing large corporations."
It admits that authorities have already gotten wind of their continued business in the face of the health guidelines meant to curb the spread of COVID-19 and says officials have ordered it to close dine-in services.
The Whistle Stop says RCMP have also become involved.
"The RCMP have told us that they will uphold their responsibility to enforce unjustified and unfair AHS orders by a) notifying customers that they are breaking the rules by dining in, b) issue citations and fines to customers who refused to leave, c) remove customers by placing them under arrest for obstruction of 'justice,'" the statement continues.
RCMP officials tell CTV News that officers were called to respond to the scene in a support role for AHS inspectors who recently attended the restaurant. They defer all further comment about the situation to AHS Environmental Public Health.
According to the Whistle Stop, they already know what's in store for them.
"AHS has told us that the next enforcement actions will include fines, asking (Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis) to revoke our liquor license, complete closure of our business, arrests and orders to appear in court."
In response to those actions, the owners of the Whistle Stop also implored for support from other small businesses in similar situations and, furthermore, legal help if their case does indeed result in court proceedings.
"We need to know other small business are going to join us in fighting against tyrannical overreach perpetuated by Alberta Health Services, Deena Hinshaw, and the Alberta government. We need this to go viral on social media so that we may reach people or organizations who can help us and other business in Alberta. We will need legal expertise and assistance."
The statement goes on to say that the two weeks of restrictions to bend the curve of COVID-19 cases in Alberta "has not worked" and accuses AHS of mismanaging the situation.
"It's obvious that AHS isn't making the right decisions and needs to be held accountable. And now to hear Dr. Hinshaw tell us there is no date, no end in sight is the final straw. Will you stand with us?"
According to a recent report from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, approximately 34,500 small businesses in Alberta are worried about permanently closing their doors because of the continued COVID-19 restrictions.
It estimates more than 625,000 Albertans will lose their jobs if that happens.
CTV News has reached out to AHS and the provincial government for comment on the situation involving The Whistle Stop Café.