Smith restaurant opens despite health regulations

Pearl Lorentzen

The one remaining Smith restaurant opened for dine in service in direct violation of Alberta Health Regulations prohibiting dine in service.

Late night on January 25, 2021, Char’s Railway Cafe in Smith, Alberta posted on Facebook – “Remember, we are now open for dine in.” At midnight, Char’s posted “Just to clarify, yes we are open for dine in!! I have a lot of people who disagree, so don’t come. For everyone else, join us!!”

Until further notice, the Alberta Health Restrictions on the Alberta government’s website included the following to do with restaurants:

“Mandatory restriction – Provincewide – Effective Dec. 13

  • All restaurants, pubs, bars, lounges and cafes are closed to in-person service.
  • Take out, curbside pickup and delivery services are allowed.”

The Alberta government website adds, “If you violate a public health order, you may be subject to a $1,000 fine. Additionally, you can be prosecuted for up to $100,000 for a first offense.”

Neither Char’s Railway Cafe or the RCMP were willing to comment.

The COVID-19 restrictions have been hard on restaurants.

Until the end of December, the Hamlet of Smith had two restaurants.

On December 27, 2020, the other restaurant in Smith posted on Facebook, “The Red Door Restaurant in Smith is now closed permanently due to minimal income due to the new regulations with COVID-19. This has ruined many small businesses including mine.”


In response to Char’s being open to dine in service despite the health restrictions various people commented on Facebook. Some were for and some were against the decision.

Many Facebook comments supported the decision such as “Get fined, go to court, defend your constitutional freedoms.” or “Open for supper? A table for two please…6 p.m.”

Others didn’t make a judgement but provided facts – “Ignoring the lockdown = a great way to get fined. This is fact. Not an opinion. Not a judgement.”

Some people also shared Char’s post, with commentary. For example, Sheila Willis wrote the following on Facebook.

“This is the restaurant in my small rural hamlet and these are my thoughts. 

I am sure this was not an easy choice to make – but IMO (in my opinion) I would think to any business owner makes this choice on a do or die basis.

“The fact that they are risking heavy fines, and other penalties to open says they have not taken the decision lightly. AHS coming is inevitable.

“I would like to see the stats on how many cases of Covid have been transmitted through small service businesses and a very definitive breakdown of what kind of business – restaurants, gas stations, hair salons etc.

“… IMO Small business is able to follow safety protocols easier than box store businesses based simply on the reduced surface areas to monitor and clean and number of people coming in at one time.

“I see no reason why a place such as this cannot be open if they follow protocols such as distancing and cleaning. We can all choose whether we want to go in, order takeout or stay away completely.”

Char’s Railway Cafe in Smith, when it opened, in 2019.

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