Harassment over COVID-19 restrictions prompts Alberta restaurant to pause indoor dining

A Calgary-area restaurant has closed its doors after staff were subject to threats following the announcement management would be introducing a vaccine passport.

Read more: Restrictions Exemption Program changes leaves Calgary business owner disappointed

Normally, the Langdon Firehouse Bar & Grill would be busy with people enjoying a meal and live music. But on Monday, owners made the difficult decision to shut the doors to in-person dining.

“We made the decision to close because the comments that were coming at us were significant enough that we didn’t feel confident or safe in opening the doors and having our staff deal with this backlash,” co-owner Aleesha Gosling said.

The Firehouse owners decided to bring in the restrictions exemption program, requiring people show proof of vaccination before entering.

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While the majority of patrons were in support, Gosling said there were a small number who made their strong opposition known online and in person.

“Stuff like, ‘We are part of the problem’ by following the guidelines from the government. That we are sheep. That we are falling over and caving to these regulations,” Gosling said.

The province implemented the program to help protect patrons and staff, as well as prevent the spread of COVID-19.

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Alberta launches COVID-19 vaccine passport program

Proof of vaccination is now required in Alberta for places like restaurants and bars, if the establishments want to operate with no restrictions.

Establishments that do not require vaccine passports have to close to indoor service.

Read more: The Canadian Federation of Independent Business on Alberta’s New Restriction Exemption Program

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“We feel that if it was mandated by every business to enforce that, it might’ve been easier on people and business owners as well,” co-owner Greg Thompson.

“We needed more clarity on how we were going to present this to our customers and educate our staff in conjunction with getting a lot of this bullying online. Looking at: how we are going to safely take care of our customers and our staff moving forward?”

Read more: Alberta’s new proof of vaccination cards can be easily edited, residents say

Longtime customers sympathize with the owners’ predicament.

“I was pretty disappointed. We are in a situation where there is hate. People don’t like each other anymore,” said Langdon resident Rick McDonough. “It’s sad.”

“Stop and think about it. They are backed into a corner. Either they comply with what the government is asking them to do or they shut down and they’ve shut down so many times. Sooner or later, the employees aren’t going to come back.”

Right now Firehouse is still offering pick up and delivery service. The owners hope to reopen later this week when they get more clarity on how staff will deal with customer questions about the vaccine passport. They also hope to have a security team in place by the end of the week.

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Political scientist Duane Bratt says Alberta’s new ‘convoluted’ rules are several weeks too late, calls for Kenney to resign

Thompson and Gosling said they’ve heard from numerous other restaurants in same position.

“We don’t have a lot of options. We are forced to close at the moment because of the lack of education and the lack of confidence in how to deal with the backlash,” Gosling said.

“Paying money for the security team while losing money by not being open — it’s an awful situation to be in. But to us, it’s worth it to get these doors back open and have that security in place to protect our customers and staff.”

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