Bill Kaufmann

May 6, 2021

-Calgary Herald


Citing illegal patios, health inspectors have ordered the closure of two Calgary-area eateries and censured another.

Alberta Health Services officials say the configuration of the patios makes them indoor spaces, which can’t be used under COVID-19 public health rules.

The closure orders come just as the province – under criticism for allegedly lax enforcement of restrictions – has vowed to get tougher with COVID-19 scofflaws.

And on Tuesday, the province said as of Monday all outdoor commercial patios in Alberta would be shut down for at least three weeks to slow the spread of the virus.

One of the closures targets Trolley 5 Brewpub on 17 Ave. operated by Alberta Hospitality Association President Ernie Tsu, who’s been an outspoken critic of the UCP government’s restriction policies.

“The food establishment was providing food and beverage services in an indoor space,” reads an AHS closure order aimed at all three restaurants.

“The space in question is enclosed by three walls and a roof and is therefore not considered outdoors as defined in CMOH order 12-2021. This distinction was clearly communicated to the owner at a previous inspection.”

Also ordered to close was Big Sky BBQ Pit just north of Okotoks while Ceili’s on 17th at 933 17 Ave. S.W. was issued a directive to dismantle either the plastic walls or roof of its patio “to ensure that this space meets the definition of an outdoor dining area.”

There are no monetary penalties attached to the orders and they don’t prevent the businesses from providing take-out service.

Given Calgary’s harsh and volatile climate, some restaurateurs say they have no choice but to erect sheltered patios if they hope to attract customers.

And they say a roller coaster ride of closures and other restrictions has devastated their industry.

Matt Blanchfield said he’ll retract the roof he’d installed over his patio with umbrellas while retaining its walls.

“We’ve kept the walls up because the wind on 17 Avenue is pretty crazy,” he said.

“We just want to make the most of the next few days of good weather before all the patios shut down.”

Concerns have been raised over eateries’ supposedly lax enforcement of a rule demanding patio patrons sit only with those in their own household, while people living alone can be joined by two close contacts.

Blanchfield said the recent enforcement is just the latest hurdle they’ve surmounted in the past 14 months, adding he’s hoping an accelerated vaccination program will soon render them moot.

“It feels like we’re almost done – we hope the daily case count comes down,” he said.