Risky Business? New shops open amid second wave of COVID-19 infections

EDMONTON — UPDATE: Arcadia Brewery posted on social media on Friday evening that an employee they had worked with on Wednesday had tested positive for COVID-19, so the opening will be delayed until the space has been properly cleaned.

Starting your own business is a risk-filled venture at the best of times. During a global pandemic, which has forced temporary and permanent business closures across Canada, the gamble is even more glaring.

It is not stopping Edmonton-based entrepreneurs from pursuing their dreams, even those who operate a brick and mortar establishment.

“Ignorance, stupidity. A whole mix of things,” joked Darren McGeown about his current feelings. He’s the owner of Arcadia Brewing Co. which officially opens Saturday. His is the first business to open in in the newly built Manchester Square development at 107 Avenue and 120 Street.

“Fingers crossed,” he said from behind the bar.

Darren McGeown

McGeown is well aware of what Arcadia is up against. Edmonton is experiencing a second wave of COVID-19, setting records for daily case counts and hospitalizations this month. Provincial health restrictions prohibit him from selling liquor past 10 p.m. at first, and if the province ever decides to close non-essential businesses as it did in the spring, his new brewery will be impacted.

“Opening up during COVID is definitely going to be interesting, especially with the cases rising right now. Definitely keeps me up at night,” said McGeown, who said the weekend grand opening will be the culmination of a five-year dream, just not quite as he’d imagined.

McGeown is not alone, however. Others are expanding their existing businesses.

Rge Rd, a restaurant nearly across the street from Arcadia, opened its own attached butcher shop Wednesday.

“We were definitely planning this long before COVID hit. We were actually hoping to be open late spring early summer,” said Caitlin Fulton, Co-Owner of The Butchery, which offers locally sourced meat.

“We’re excited to serve this neighbourhood,” Fulton said.

According to Statistics Canada, business closures in Alberta far outweighed business openings across all sectors during the first five months of the pandemic (data only available until July), especially in March and April or the first wave of COVID-19 in the province.

“When we look at what’s happening with the business sector right now, the last six, seven, eight months have been really challenging,” said Heather Thomson, executive director of the Alberta School of Business.

“But it’s also allowed for some opportunities,” Thomson said, “So it is encouraging.”

McGeown believes whether he is able to keep his doors open or not, that community support will help see Arcadia Brewing through the pandemic. He said off-sale is an option, if it comes to it.

“No matter what happens through COVID, we will survive,” said McGeown.

With files from Amanda Anderson

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