Bars across Alberta apply for licence change to stay open, while others close their doors

Bars and pubs that don’t allow minors were ordered by the Alberta government to close during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Those establishments can apply for a licence change to stay open — but some owners say it’s not worth it to stay open, not now.

Heather Holman with the AGLC says 95 bars have applied to change their licence from one where minors are prohibited, to one where minors are allowed. 

The licence change, which comes with no fees, requires establishments to:

  • Restrict their capacity to a maximum of 50 people or half their normal occupancy, whichever is less.
  • Provide full food service during all hours of liquor service.
  • Operate as a sit-down restaurant.

“It’s not something that was planned for because it was an emergency decision made by the province,” Holman said, adding that AGLC has been inundated with calls from the many different businesses impacted by the forced closures.

Harry Dimitriadis is the co-owner of Jameson’s Pubs, which have two locations in Calgary.

The pubs could remain open under provincial rules — they allow minors — but Dimitriadis decided to close the doors. 

“We didn’t feel we could easily control and contain everything,” he said.

While safety is the primary reason for the closure, it isn’t the only one.

“Right now we’re allowed 50 people — are people going to go out? Is it gonna … on the business side, if you do open your doors is it going to hurt you because so many people are angry that you’ve opened your business up?” he said.

Watchman’s Pub put out a public apology after it received backlash on social media for staying open on St. Patrick’s Day, saying it misunderstood the guidelines for which establishments could stay open. The pub did receive a visit from Occupational Health and Safety, according to a post on its Facebook page.

At the time, it did not have a licence that allows minors, but despite later being granted a temporary licence to allow minors, decided to close the doors.

“We truly are sorry that we caused any stress or concern to anyone by our misunderstanding. We would like to thank all our staff for their loyal support and understanding in these unprecedented times,” the pub’s Facebook post read.

Dimitriadis said instead of bashing businesses on social media, he’d like to see people respond more kindly given the tough situation both businesses and patrons are in.

“Maybe approach that business owner and say, ‘Hey, why are you staying open?'” he said.

As of Saturday, there are 226 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Alberta. The province said it’s eyeing measures to enforce its mass gathering bans and business closures.

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