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Olds saloon operators fined for reopening contrary to health orders

Bulldogs Saloon reopened in violation of restrictions on Jan. 29 and 30
MVT Bulldogs Saloon 1
Owners of Bulldogs Saloon were fined for reopening for dine-in service when public health orders prohibited it. File photo/MVP Staff

OLDS — Bulldogs Saloon general manager Darren MacDonald is looking forward to reopening to in-person drinks and dining this Wednesday under the provincial government’s loosened COVID-19 restrictions after having defied restrictions in recent weeks. 

The saloon reopened to in-person dining Jan. 29 and 30 from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. each night because it simply had to in order to survive, MacDonald said during an interview. At that time, dine-in service was not allowed under pandemic restrictions.

He was issued two tickets for being in violation of a public health order.

Under the new rules, restaurants and bars can have up to six people at each table, as long as they are from the same household. And people who live alone can go to an establishment with up to two close contacts. Restaurants must obtain contact information from at least one member of each cohort. Liquor sales must end at 10 and in-person dining must end by 11 p.m.

Bulldogs is normally closed Sundays through Tuesdays, so Wednesday will be its first test under the new conditions. 

It was open for takeout and delivery service this past Wednesday through Saturday as well. 

MacDonald stressed the Jan. 29 and 30 dine-in reopening wasn’t a protest per se against the previous rules, as it was for some businesses. 

He felt they had no choice. 

“Basically we need money. Like I mean, we’re just running on fumes and there wasn’t any money to pay bills or anything. So I mean it was either we open and make some money or we close and don’t open again,” he said. 

Bulldogs is the latest iteration of bars and restaurants that have been located in the building along 50th Avenue, just south of Highway 27. 

It opened in September 2019. Then in January, 2020, work began to install a kitchen. The fully renovated bar and restaurant opened on April 1. 

Unfortunately for MacDonald and company, by then, the COVID-19 lockdown had begun. 

“We lost four weeks of college nights and then there was a weekend of a college rodeo,” he said.  

They were able to open a bit in the summer but overall, he figures they lost $40,000 to $50,000 worth of business. 

He was pleased by the support the restaurant received during the weekend opening to dine-in service. 

“We had people drive three hours to come and eat and drink. Like there were people that came from the other side of Edmonton, the other side of Okotoks, Sylvan Lake – all over the place. Plus local people on top of that,” he said. 

"It was very overwhelming, I guess would be the word for it.” 

The place was visited by peace officer Eric Christensen on the Friday and Saturday night and by an Alberta Health Services official on Saturday night.  

He received one ticket for $1,200 each night for being open in violation of the rules but MacDonald says he didn’t pay it. In both cases, he's waiting for the court date in May.  

MacDonald said he had no problem with any of the visits. He said he has a “very good” relationship with Christensen. 

“There's a lot of places that have just been open a lot longer and a lot more than what we’ve been doing,” MacDonald said. “I mean, we weren’t trying to be rebellious or anything like that, just open because it’s our livelihood.” 

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