Businesses look to next stage of relaunch plan

· The Pulse
By Paul Cashman
in the Business Roundup

After struggling for more than a year with pandemic-inflicted restrictions, business owners are opening patios while looking ahead to an expected June 10 end of a ban on indoor dining and other public health orders.

Premier Jason Kenney is promising "bigger gatherings, indoor dining, gyms, movie theatres, and more" as long as COVID-19 hospitalizations don't rapidly rise.

There is still a long way to go before Edmontonians are comfortable venturing out, so organizations like the Old Strathcona Business Association are working to raise confidence levels. Expanded sidewalks along Whyte Avenue will welcome visitors as one way to deal with public concerns. "We saw crowding, which is something we (were) very, very concerned about last year. And we know that folks are still nervous about that," Cherie Klassen, executive director of the association, told 630 CHED Mornings with Daryl McIntyre.

The group is also reminding shoppers that masks are still required indoors and asking people to be understanding during the transition to the post-pandemic period. "The last year has not been easy, and there is still a lot to remember to do with masks, distancing and as business operations adjust, so the best thing we can all do is be patient with one another," the group urged in a web post.

A survey by Leger found that about half of Canadians were feeling at least somewhat anxious about going back to the way life was before the pandemic, the Edmonton Journal reported.

That anxiety is impacting Edmonton event planners as groups struggle to decide whether to go ahead with plans to host weddings, parties, and corporate events. "It is absolute chaos, talking to other vendors in the industry and venues," Cocktails and Details owner Jenna Fisher told Global News Edmonton.

A worker walks alongside a barrier widening a sidewalk along Whyte Avenue

The sidewalks on both sides of Whyte Avenue between 103 and 105 Streets will be widened to help visitors keep their distance. (Photo supplied by OSBA)

Even with plans for the Calgary Stampede to go ahead, Edmonton Northlands announced it was cancelling K-Days for a second year. "Rather than having an event simply to have it in 2021, we want to work with our stakeholders and partners on relaunching K-Days in 2022," Northlands said in a news release.

Annie Dormuth, the Alberta provincial affairs director for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, said there was "cautious optimism" about the relaunch among small businesses but noted in an interview with CTV Edmonton that 27% are concerned they will have to close permanently because of mounting debt levels.

The Edmonton Chamber of Commerce urged business owners to complete a province-wide survey on the help they need to recover. "While the government's summer reopening timelines are positive, our province isn't out of the woods yet," said Ken Kobly, CEO of the Alberta Chambers of Commerce.