Alix businesswoman lays off over a dozen employees after COVID-19 rules

Owner/operator of the Alix Hotel for 11 years, Barb Gilliat, only a few weeks ago, had a bar, off-sales section and restaurant in her hotel and employed over a dozen people. ECA Review/Stu Salkeld
Written by Stu Salkeld

Owner/operator of the Alix Hotel for 11 years, Barb Gilliat, only a few weeks ago, had a bar, off-sales section and restaurant in her hotel and employed over a dozen people. ECA Review/Stu Salkeld

The uncertainty of the global coronavirus pandemic is causing anxiety for thousands of small business owners across the country, including in rural Alberta. 

The situation is the same for one Alix businesswoman.

Owner/operator of the Alix Hotel for 11 years, Barb Gilliat, only a few weeks ago, had a bar, off-sales section and restaurant in her hotel and employed over a dozen people. After coronavirus became a serious issue in Alberta, much of that has changed.

The Alberta Government declared a medical state of emergency the week of March 16, suddenly instituting a number of measures intended to slow down the spread of coronavirus. 

Among the rules are the closure of bars, casinos, dance clubs and entertainment venues like theatres, then on March 27 the provincial government decreed restaurants were forbidden to offer sit-down dining and can offer take-out and delivery only.

Gilliat said she first heard about coronavirus in January, that it was in Wuhan, China and fairly far away.

“Of course, like everyone else, you don’t think it’s going to come here,” said Gilliat in her restaurant on March 26.

Gilliat said she found out about the state of emergency announcement through social media and then closed her bar March 17. 

That afternoon around 4:30 p.m. the VLTs, controlled by the provincial government, were turned off but that didn’t surprise her, as the machines attract people in close proximity and require a lot of touching to operate.

The businesswoman said she contacted the provincial government to confirm what happened and received clarification that businesses with primarily food service could remain open but bars had to close until further notice. 

She noted the bar is a major part of her gross income and without it, she couldn’t keep the entire operation going. 

She suddenly went from 18 employees to four and had no choice but to lay off almost everyone, not just for her customer’s safety, but for her employee’s too. 

To keep her operation going, she converted the bar into a restaurant