On Sept. 20, Premier Jason Kenney announced that restaurants must restrict their service to patio-only seating unless they opt-in to the Restriction Exemption Program. Some restaurants have opted into this program, while others, such as Kb&Co in Terwillegar, have decided to convert to takeout only. This new proof of vaccine program has also encouraged other types of businesses to require vaccinations.
Shaelyn Tymchtyshyn, a manager of MKT Beer Market on Whyte Avenue, says that business has been very slow since the exemption program was introduced. “Sales have taken a hit the first week, and our servers have been losing shifts.”
Tymchtyshyn says that back to school time is already a slow time of year, but sales begin to rise come October for Halloween. “It’s already a slow time of the year, but with COVID-19 we haven’t seen a tremendous increase in sales during these times.”
Not only have some restaurants experienced the financial strain of asking for the vaccine passports, but have also dealt with confused and sometimes frustrated customers. Megan Dean, general manager for Hart’sTable and Bar, says that she’s experienced frustration from customers about the new policy. “Lots of people shared with (us) that they are vaccinated but simply don’t think the mandate is right.”
Although most people are respectful and considerate to businesses during these unprecedented times, Dean says that a few people have posted backlash on Hart’s page, such as comments saying, “(it’s) absolute tyranny to have restaurants condone these discriminatory mandates.”
Dean says that the first week of business was painfully slow, and customers have said they hadn’t had the chance to get organized with their vaccine cards. Over the last few weeks, Dean says that she has been seeing more people come into the restaurant. “It’s been two weeks since the mandate, so I know a lot of people who finally went to get vaccinated.”
The Restriction Exemption Program has affected those who work as line cooks and chefs at restaurants as well. Jarvis Mykituk is a line cook at MKT who has been with the Century Hospitality Group for four years. He says that his hours have decreased substantially since the first week of the exemption program. “I rely on my hourly wages. Working only three to five hours a day is not cutting it.”
Mykituk says he is no longer eligible for employment insurance as his benefits ended earlier this month. “I’m terrified that I will wake up one day to find out we are in a lockdown and I’ll be laid off again.”
Restaurants such as Kb&Co in Terwillegar have decided to keep their business to takeout only. A statement from the Kb&Co Instagram says “after taking some time to weigh out our options we have decided to offer takeout only starting Monday, Sept. 20.” As a ‘quick café’, this business has resorted to online delivery services such as Skip the Dishes and Uber Eats.
According to the Government of Alberta website, businesses that must implement the Restriction Exemption Program to operate normally (with the mask mandate in place) are restaurants, bars, cafés, pubs and nightclubs. Other businesses that can opt into this mandate are recreation, event and entertainment facilities, and more.
For businesses that opt-in to this program, it is required that all customers provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID- 19 test result from the last 72 hours, which can cost up to $150. Customers and visitors must provide a government-issued ID at the time as well.
Other institutions that will start implementing a vaccine passport are Universities such as MacEwan and the University of Alberta. In a media release from Sept. 13, nine university institutions from Edmonton, Calgary, Lethbridge and Red Deer will be requiring all university students, visitors and staff members to be vaccinated to attend campus. MacEwan will be offering rapid testing for the fall 2021 term.
The restriction exemption program has affected businesses such as restaurants and cafés. Dean and Tymchtyshyn say they remain optimistic for these coming months and encourage vaccinated customers to come in and support local businesses.