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Black Diamond merchants prepare to open alongside relaunch strategy

Business owners choosing to follow Alberta’s relaunch strategy and open their doors next week will face some unique challenges as they juggle strict social distancing and sanitation regulations.
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Hard Knox Shandelle Desautels
Hard Knox Brewery taproom manager Shandelle Desautels cleans tap lines to prepare for opening. The Black Diamond brewery is preparing to open its doors to serve customers on May 14. (Photo courtesy of Pamela Lyken)

Black Diamond merchants choosing to follow Alberta’s relaunch strategy and open their doors next week will face some unique challenges as they juggle strict physical distancing and sanitation regulations.

Hard Knox Brewery owner Pamela Lyken is rearranging furniture to comply with physical distancing standards, positioning staff in places she’s never had to before and planning a strict sanitation regime as she prepares to open her business fully for May 14 amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The brewery closed its tap rooms, dining area and patio to customers in mid-March, providing pick-up and delivery services only.

“We’re flying by the seat of our pants,” Lyken said. “It overwhelmed me initially because we thought everything was closed until August so we thought we had lots of time before we had to open up. Now, all of a sudden, it’s panic mode.”

The Province announced its relaunch strategy in early May, which allows some retail stores like clothing, furniture and book stores to reopen, as well as businesses like barbers, restaurants, pubs, art galleries and daycares, by May 14, depending on Alberta’s COVID-19 statistics in the next week. The province currently has more than 6,000 confirmed cases.

Lyken said the decision to open the brewery so soon wasn’t easy.

“It created some anxiety,” she said. “There are so many factors to consider that you normally don’t have to consider when you’re opening up a business.”

With Smokey Goose BBQ planning to launch its food shack in the brewery’s parking lot, and with several of Lyken’s customers chomping at the bit to see the brewery open, she decided to reopen for the Victoria Day long weekend.

“We’ll open on the long weekend and go from there,” she said. “We have zero expectations. At 50 per cent capacity, we can have no more than 55 customers and staff at a time.”

Customers will notice a lot of changes in the way the brewery operates.

Lyken, who laid off half of her staff two months ago, is sticking to her five remaining staff members to start. New roles for staff include a waiter and bartender manning the tap room and a host positioned outside with a wash station.

Sanitizer lotion and wipes will be in abundance, and staff will wipe down surfaces between customers using a heavy-duty cleaner in the dining area, patio and bathrooms, Lyken said.

Also choosing to reopen next week is Diamond Valley Chiropractic & Health Centre owners Greg Morris and Natalie Carrington, who will begin offering their chiropractic services on May 11. The couple closed the centre to all non-emergency services in mid-March.

“As health care professionals, we are allowed to open as per what the Alberta College and Association of Chiropractors directed on May 4,” said Carrington. “We’re happy to serve our community and we’re taking every precaution as to what the college and public health requires.”

For Carrington and Morris, patient safety is paramount.

“We can’t go back to the way that it was because there’s a lot of protocols in place, a lot of screening,” Carrington said. “We have to abide by all the physical distancing guidelines and that all takes time. When we’re with our patients we will have the appropriate PPE.”

Tracey Fleury, who owns Diamond in the Rough on Main Street, will also take extra precautions when opening her specialty store on May 15.

She will allow only two customers in the shop at a time, install a Plexiglas shield at the till, have hand sanitizer for all customers to use when they enter and will sanitize the debit machine, door knobs and other surfaces between customers.

Fleury had closed the shop on March 12 and has since had people asking when she plans to reopen.

“One couple drove down from Calgary about a month ago and were disappointed to see me closed,” she said. “It’s been a pretty long haul for me, but I’ve been keeping up on my rent and I’m doing okay. Luckily, I had savings for a rainy day.”

Diamond in the Rough will initially open Thursdays to Sundays. Fleury hopes to return to the store’s regular hours by June, during which time she hopes to hand the business over to its new owners.

An agreement was made for the new owners to take over Diamond in the Rough in March, but Fleury agreed to hold on to the business until the situation improved.

While many merchants like Fleury, Carrington and Lyken are hopping aboard the Province’s relaunch strategy, Westwood co-owner Erin Kendrick is not ready to take that leap.

The popular restaurant has been offering take-out and delivery services for select menu items on weekends for almost two months, and Kendrick plans to keep it that way for a while.

“In my opinion it’s just a little bit early and we don’t want to risk it,” she said. “Black Diamond, right now, has the most cases it’s ever had so it seems a little bit soon for me to be opening the doors. It would be like we took all these precautions for nothing.”

Tammy Rollie, OkotoksToday.ca

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Tammy Rollie

About the Author: Tammy Rollie

Tammy Rollie is a staff reporter at OkotoksToday.ca and the Western Wheel newspaper, focusing on Wheel's West, local arts and culture and entertainment. For story tips contact trollie@okotoks.greatwest.ca
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