On Feb. 9 the province of Alberta entered step 1 of phasing out public health measures.
The Restrictions Exemption Program was removed, along with most associated restrictions. Capacity limits were extended to all large facilities and entertainment venues with food and beverage consumption now allowed in seats.
Interactive activities, liquor service and operating hour restrictions remain in place for food-serving entities. Mandatory masking requirements were removed for children under 13 in all settings as of Feb. 14.
Taylor DeMott, owner of Ugly’s Pub and Grill in Lacombe is ecstatic that restrictions are lifting and looking forward to having a busy front of house once again.
“I became an owner of Ugly’s only seven months prior to COVID, so I am really looking forward to running my business how I chose to and how I have always envisioned instead of being told by the government how I can. The last week has been a breath of fresh air seeing familiar faces out again, everyone smiling and enjoying their time at the pub.”
When the REP program first went into place DeMott said that they as a business chose not to participate.
“Unfortunately living in Alberta our weather can get quite cold and with winter approaching our only option was to join the REP program so we could dine indoors, it was not an easy decision.”
DeMott noted that there are still some grey areas, such as the 11 p.m. last call.
“That makes no sense to myself and many others in the industry but at this point, I will take what I can get and I am super hopeful that more mandates will be lifted in the near future.”
The Lacombe and District Chamber of Commerce is also anticipating the removal of restrictions.
“While we welcome the lifting of many of the restrictions, we recognize that each business and organization has a duty to ensure the safety of their staff, and may adopt different approaches to the changes in these restrictions over the coming days and weeks,” said Jeffrey Hangar, executive director. ”We ask that residents are gracious and respectful of these businesses’ choices in how they choose to operate, and that frontline staff continue to be treated with courtesy and kindness.”
Public health measures will be lifted in three stages as the Omicron wave subsides and pressure on the healthcare system eases.
If hospitalizations are trending downwards at the end of the month, the province will move into step 2 on March 1 and public health measures will be updated.
Any remaining school requirements removed and screening for youth activities will be removed and the capacity on all large venues and entertainment venues lifted.
Indoor and outdoor social gathering limits lifted and workplaces will also begin to see staff return to work as the mandatory work-from-home requirements. When those staff members do return they will not be required to wear masks.
Hangar said the pandemic has led to an increase in shopping, to help local businesses navigate the online world and return to serving customers, the chamber has arranged a free “Embrace Lacombe Marketing Workshop” on Feb. 24. They also have a Lacombe and District Trade Show coming up in April to help businesses as they begin the path back to normal. Local businesses and community groups can register at lacombechamber.ca/trade-show.
“As a Chamber, we would like to see a continuance of the respect that has been shown to businesses in our area over the last couple of years.”