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Dickens Pub closes short-term to help prevent the spread of COVID

With COVID-19 cases in Alberta spiking, Calgary bar owner Chris Hewitt said that everyone must do their part to help curb the spread.

That’s why he made an executive decision to temporarily close down his bar, Dickens Pub, for the next two-to-three weeks.

Over the weekend, Alberta hit new record COVID-19 case counts, with 1,026 cases on Nov. 14. There were a further 991 cases on Nov. 15. On Monday, another 860 cases were reported, along with 20 deaths.

“We have entered an exponential growth period and that is, of course, deeply concerning,” said Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health.

“If these new (health restriction) measures that were put in place last Friday are not enough, we will be absolutely be bringing forward recommendations for additional measures.

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“It feels wrong to keep inviting everybody down here with the case numbers spiking badly,” Hewitt said in an interview with LiveWire Calgary. Dickens posted about the closure on Facebook Sunday night.

“I care about my staff and my customers.”

For the past 20 years, Hewitt has been in this business. A lot has changed. Especially now.

“I have been in the business of bringing people together to sing and dance and have a good time,” he said.

“Those are all exactly the things we can no longer allow.”

But even though there are only a few known cases linked to the hospitality industry, Hewitt said that shutting down was the right thing to do for a number of reasons. In Alberta, however, roughly 86 per cent of cases in the past week have an unknown transmission origin.

The new provincial measures include ending liquor service in bars, pubs and lounges at 10 p.m.

“As we closed up early on the weekend each night, I noticed that everybody was sort of making their plans to go out to house parties,” said Hewitt.

“Which is kind of exactly the biggest concern from people that I know in the bar business.”

Early Tuesday, another Calgary taphouse made the decision to shut down.

Every situation is different

The Calgary Chamber of Commerce said the Dickens Pub decision might not work for everyone.

“I think every business has to look at its own operations,” said Murray Sigler, the interim CEO of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce.

“What works for one business might not work for another.”

He added that while it may be hard for businesses to cope with a mandated lockdown, the chamber and its membership are on board with whatever decision the public health officials make.

But Sigler said advanced notice would help.

“We call on government to provide sufficient notice to give businesses, and their customers, their employees, everybody that’s involved… time to prepare for [a lockdown],” he said.

“If they say a stricter lockdown is coming, we will respect that. But at the same time businesses need some certainty and time to plan.”

Looking to the future

Hewitt said that Dickens can handle a break. He understands that not every bar or business can or will do the same.

During the first lockdown, many businesses closed due to financial distress.

But Sigler said that with prolonged economic struggles in Calgary, it’s not new.

“The business community has been having a really tough go for a long time,” he said.

But both he and Hewitt are optimistic that the community will help businesses come back

“I think we will be able to bounce back from this like we did after the first closure,” said Hewitt.

“I think, they’re [the people are] really on our side, and we appreciate that and that’s the kind of community that we work hard to cultivate.”