Consumer confidence concerns for Calgary businesses as proof of vaccination requirement lifted
The removal of proof of vaccination requirements for Alberta businesses is receiving mixed reviews as the province moves toward a plan to completely lift all COVID-19 public health restrictions.
Calgary Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Deborah Yedlin responded to Premier Jason Kenney’s announcement by noting consumer confidence may be reduced if patrons aren’t required to be vaccinated.
“I think that's the big issue that we're worried about because businesses need certainty, this does not provide certainty, because it really does come down to the obligation of how businesses choose to monitor who walks in their door,” Yedlin said.
“What we don't understand is how much our business recovery is tied to consumer confidence and right now that is going to be at risk for businesses and for the city at large.”
Yedlin adds she would have liked to see businesses able to receive more access to rapid tests, access to QR code scanning and the relaxation of an 11 p.m. stoppage on the sale of alcohol, which is still in place.
Ernie Tsu, president of the Alberta Hospitality Association (AHA) agrees that restaurants are still unfairly targeted as all patrons must stay seated at their tables and are not allowed to mingle with other groups.
He notes that live music venues are also struggling significantly with inability to book functions larger than 10 people and activities like darts and pool still not allowed.
“Multiple letters have gone in from restaurant owners and stakeholders across the province straight to the government, letting them know about the loss of revenues, the mental health breakdown of not just the owners, but of our staff, the laying off of staff and the loss of labor hours as well,” Tsu said.
“We're compliant right now. But we will see a number of restaurants start to go against the current restrictions if they don't get lifted soon because they're at that breaking point where it's either open up to try to get revenue back into their till or have to close the doors.”
Meanwhile, some restaurants are opting to keep the Restrictions Exemption Program (REP) in place and still require proof of vaccination.
The Ship & Anchor, a popular pub on 17th Avenue S.W., released the following statement Wednesday morning:
“We are choosing to hit pause on removing the REP while we consult our staff, assess customers’ comfort levels, and wait on the city’s response,” it read.
“We are in support of the Alberta Hospitality Association response to the announcement and feel that it would be wiser to ease out of restrictions with the REP in place while removing other restrictions ahead of it, such as mingling, table caps and curfews.”
FITNESS VENUES IN SUPPORT OF REP REMOVAL
Fitness studios in Calgary are no longer required to ask for proof of vaccination and ensuring patrons that their locations are well-sanitized and safe is of the utmost importance.
Andrew Obrecht, co-owner of YYC Cycle, says his team is managing the lifting of vaccination proof as best as possible and says he has full confidence in that plan.
“We spent five months open after the first lockdown and there were zero vaccinations happening and we had 36,000 people come through our doors without any indication or any occurrence of transfer of COVID within our studio,” he said.
“So we're very confident in our protocols and procedures to keep people safe.”
Obrecht adds all of his studios use electrostatic sprayers for sanitizing and every spin bike is wiped down twice between each person using them.
“When people show up to the studio, they're the first ones to touch that clean equipment so we're very confident," he said.
Other outdoor activity locations such as The Calgary Zoo and WinSport Canada Olympic Park have also removed requirements for proof of vaccination as per the latest government announcement.
Dale Oviatt, WinSport's senior manager of communications, says it’s been a busy 12 hours removing all signage and tents where guests normally needed to line up to show their vaccination proof.
Despite the quick change, he assures guests that safety is the number one concern at all times.
“For us, it's just reminding individuals to do what they’re comfortable doing and while we all know that masking is still required indoors, we recommend wearing those masks outdoors if you feel like you need to, and keep your distance,” Oviatt said.
“Especially in congested areas like lift lines and places like that, we want to make sure people continue with distancing and hand hygiene, and just be aware of their surroundings.”
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