A Rimbey cafe owner said enough was enough and joined a movement of business owners opening their doors to dine-in customers.
Holly Schell, owner of Blue Bird Coffee Co. on Rimbey’s Main Street, says she respects what the provincial government is trying to do, but believes they are going about it the wrong way.
“Last week I went and got a hair cut, and the lady was very close and touching my face. In my cafe we don’t touch each other’s faces. We have very strict safety and cleaning protocols,” Schell said.
She continued to say the regulations around small businesses is inconsistent and helping no one.
The continued closure for dine-in options at restaurants is hurting not only the business owners but staff and family members as well, Schell said.
When the extended restrictions were put into place in December, Schell had to layoff her employees and stopped baking food items for the cafe as it was too expensive to continue without dine in customers.
“I looked at my kid and thought I had to do this, for her so I can support her,” said Schell.
“I pay rent here, and without anything coming in I can’t pay my rent… If I have to remain closed for another four weeks I won’t make it.”
Schell was inspired by the restaurant in Mirror who opened to dine-in customers earlier in the week.
After hearing about the small-town restaurant, she made a spur of the minute choice to open for one day.
On the afternoon of Jan. 26, she posted a live video on her Facebook page.
Blue Bird Coffee Co. had a very busy day on Jan. 27 when it opened to dine in customers for the first time since early December.
Customers came in to support the small cafe from across Central Alberta and as far away as Calgary.
“It brings me to tears to see the support I have been given. And it’s not just me, but other small businesses in town and across the province.”
Each customer who came into the store was told what they were doing was against the regulations put in place by the provincial government.
Small place cards were printed and placed on each table that said, “By sitting at this table you are acknowledging that this goes against provincial restrictions. Thank you for your support.”
Many customers who came in during the day took pictures of the cards, and said they felt like they were also part of the movement.
“It’s not just the business owners who are part of this movement, it is the staff and the families and the customers who choose to come in and sit down.”
Schell planned to keep her doors open until she “either sold out or was shut down.”
RCMP came to the cafe around 2:45 p.m. and would not leave until every person in the restaurant left and the doors were closed.
She said the male RCMP officer who attended her cafe was “unnecessarily intimidating” and handled the situation poorly.
“I have so much respect for law enforcement… I make it a point to never be rude or disrespectful to them. I know he was only doing his job but the way he handled it was unnecessary.”
Schell says she is afraid and concerned about the repercussions of her actions, but felt she had to make a stand.
She says she has a plan moving forward, but is still worried about what is to come.
In the end, she hopes she helped bring attention to the situation and the “unfair standard the province has put in place.”
“We aren’t doing this to be rebellions, we are doing it because we have to… It’s the principal of the thing. I put so much into this place, I put my heart and soul and everything I have into this, and I needed to make a stand.”