Red Deer diner owner Wesley Langlois is among a growing number of business owners who believe it is time to take a stand on health rules banning sit-down dining.
“Red Deer has known this place for more than 30 years. I just couldn’t let this place die,” said Langlois, who runs Mom’s Diner in the West Park Shopping Centre.
Langlois, who runs Mom’s with his wife Leslie Clothier, is among a growing group of restaurant owners who are choosing to defy public health restrictions to serve dine-in customers.
In central Alberta, Mirror’s Whistle Stop Cafe opened this week for dine-in. Sylvan Lake’s Hockey Central Sports Lounge had plans to open Wednesday, according to a Facebook post.
Restaurants and bars in Mossleigh, Alta. and Okotoks have also opened their doors to diners.
On Wednesday, Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw, repeated her Tuesday message urging businesses not to flout the regulations.
Hinshaw said she recognizes how hard the restrictions have been on many businesses but that ignoring the rules “could potentially put at risk the sacrifices that we’ve made and the progress we’ve made over the past couple of months” and that opening up is not in the best interest of communities.
Alberta Health Services inspectors will be visiting restaurants and other businesses flouting the rules to “remind them of the reasons why we need to stick to the measures and make sure that we are collectively preventing the spread in the community.”
Business owners will also be reminded of the potential penalties they face.
Restaurants in Ontario have also opened their doors for dine-in, said Langlois on Wednesday. “The community has come together for small businesses.
“It started with the hair salon,” he said, referring to Innisfail’s Bladez to Fadez, which opened on Jan. 12 in defiance of health regulations. “They didn’t back down so the rest of us just wanted to follow.”
The RCMP issued two tickets under the Public Health Act to owner Natalie Klein the following day. She is due in court on March 8.
Langlois was one of those who drove to Innisfail to support Klein by getting his beard trimmed on Jan. 13.
Since then, the province has relaxed restrictions for personal grooming services, which can see customers by appointment only.
After his Innisfail trip, he quietly opened Mom’s to sit-down diners but did not advertise for a few days.
The reaction from customers has been largely positive.
“We’re abiding by the restrictions and the guidelines that were previous to the lockdown.
“We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback (as well as) a couple of negative ones from people who are deeply concerned about what’s going on in the world today, which we understand.”
Allowing dining in is important to diners like Mom’s. As an all-day breakfast place, it cannot draw on the kind of takeout or delivery service that some restaurants have leaned on.
“We offer fresh, home-cooked-style meals. People want to come in and see the ’50s-style theme,” he said.
Mom’s is also not eligible for the grants that are helping out some business owners, the owner said.
Mom’s has been around in one form of another for decades. In the 1990s, it was the popular Hubie’s Diner and later became Al’s before becoming Mom’s about two-and-a-half years ago.
He said he plans to continue serving as long as he can and has yet to be visited by Alberta Health Services inspectors.
“I don’t know how it will end, to be honest with you.
“If (AHS) did come in and give us notice to shut down or whatever, there are other resources out there to help fight the fine, so we’re definitely going to stand strong continue to be open.”
He is planning to show support for his fellow restaurant owners this evening. He has booked dinner reservations at Hockey Central for 5:30 p.m. and is expected to be joined there by other people sympathetic to the restaurant owners’ cause.