Month: May 2020

Six Frustrating Challenges to Reopening a Restaurant in the COVID-19 Era

[UPDATE MAY 22, 2020]: When we published this article a week ago, the 16th of May, we hoped that it would be found by a few other restauranteurs and let them know that they aren’t alone, and that the public who regularly follow us would gain some insight into our challenges. However, this article has since been shared all across Canada and even had respectable readership from the United States, viewed over 80,000 times by more than 61,000 people worldwide. It has been shared and reposted on social media hundreds, if not thousands of times, and we’ve spend much of the past week attempting to catalog and answer replies on this post and across various platforms, as well as fielding phone calls and conducting interviews with the press. This post was the top thread on the Calgary sub-Reddit for a while, and placed highly on the Alberta sub-Reddit, as well.

We could have never guessed that our transparency would resonate so strongly with so many people, and we have to thank all of you who’ve left comments, forwarded along to friends, purchased takeout or ordered us for delivery, etc. We especially appreciate the incredible level of positivity and constructive feedback people have given us about this article. Eventually we hope to make a follow-up article to talk about all of the wonderful ideas people have come up with about how to deal with these challenges, including what approaches we decide to take.

A small sample of the press highlights of the past few days:

This article was also republished in Sustain Magazine on May 22, 2020.


We are now at a turning point in the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, where measures taken to flatten the curve are starting to demonstrate that they’re working. Governments have begun to recognize the full economic and societal impacts of the restrictions they placed on their citizens and businesses, and are quickly starting to regroup as they face the daunting prospect of trying to rebuild an economy after 10-30% of small businesses have been forced to permanently close, and unemployment rates begin to approach and even surpass those of the Great Depression, which took a full decade and a world war to recover from.

While Prairie Dog has opted to remain closed for dine-in operations after May 14, 2020 (and very likely past the updated May 25th date announced on May 13), we do plan to eventually reopen. Ever since the May 1st announcement about restaurants reopening, people have been asking us over and over if we’ll be opening on the 14th. It can be difficult to adequately address the various challenges to doing so in a few comments on the phone or in person. When we do finally reopen, guests should expect a very different experience compared to what we were able to provide before. This article attempts to explain the complex and difficult situation we, as restaurant owners, are in when considering reopening to the public for dine-in.

It appears that our government wants to get out of the way of business as quickly as possible and leave most of the details in the hands of the business owner, which is great on one hand, but that means you could have a very different experience at different restaurants based on how seriously each restauranteur or restaurant ownership group takes the threat of COVID-19 to their staff and customers, and how they choose to approach the situation. Desperation leads to risk taking, and in this economic climate, many service-industry businesses are already in a desperate struggle to survive.

That said, what are some of the key points we are considering when thinking about reopening?

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Prairie Dog Will Not Reopen for Dine-In on May 14

Prairie Dog Brewing will remain closed for dine-in service beyond May 14, 2020, regardless of the provincial easing of COVID-19-related restrictions.
Click here to see why we aren’t reopening yet.

On May 1, 2020, the Province of Alberta announced that as of May 14th, restaurants will be allowed to reopen for dine-in service with 50% occupancy restrictions, assuming no major increase in COVID-19 infection rates or other related concerns, commencing phase 1 of a staged plan for the gradual elimination of related restrictions placed on businesses and individuals throughout our province. [Edit: On May 13th, the province further delayed Calgary and Brooks’ phase 1 to May 25, 2020].

Since that announcement, dozens of you have reached out to ask us what we are planning. To be honest, we expected the relaxation of these restrictions to come much later, and along with many of our industry friends, we are very apprehensive about reopening to dine-in services on May 14th. With formally-published guidelines for restaurants only being released on May 11th, and with only two weeks after the public announcement to strategize on what reopening would look like for us, we have decided to remain closed to dine-in services at this time. We feel this is the best call for both our staff and customers, especially after observing the experiences at businesses that have tried to reopen elsewhere, where staff have been verbally abused and even violently attacked by customers while trying to enforce legally-mandated physical distancing, mask use, and other restrictions that remain in place post-reopening.

While the date we reopen for dine-in service is still under discussion, we appreciate your continued support through the takeout and delivery services we currently offer.

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