Business Rockies

‘We’re not ready’ – Stage 2 businesses and facilities taking time to reopen in Jasper

The Canadian Press

Even with the official go-ahead from the province on June 12 to implement Stage 2 of its relaunch strategy, some local businesses and services are not ready to open their doors yet.

Stage 2 had been planned to begin on June 19 and permission to go ahead a week early threw a wrench into already-uncertain times.

“We were totally unprepared,” said Dwain Wacko, managing director of the Chaba Theatre. 

He said to align with the required protocol is a huge undertaking.

There will be fewer people allowed in the theatre so seating capacity is going to be somewhere between 20 and 30 per cent of what it was and more staff will be required to make sure the protocols are being followed.

Plexi-glass screens are on order. So are debit machines, a change from the usual cash-only system Wacko has used for decades.

In addition to the changes inside theatre, there’s another factor, a huge one which will determine when the Chaba Theatre opens.

“The industry is not ready,” Wacko said. 

“Early on, they said they wouldn’t start releasing titles until 80 per cent of the movie theatre market was open.

“They’re offering old titles and I’m not sure that’s going to work.” 

He said old titles have initially shown to be successful for the first few days the theatre’s open, but there’s no certainty if they’ll draw people to the theatre beyond that.

Wacko is ready to give it a go though. 

“We’ll try that,” he said. “We’ll need a week of practice before we have new titles.”

But getting new titles has shown to be a challenge, and it’s new titles people want to see. Wacko said a major release was scheduled for July 3 but now it has been pushed to the end of July.

And the Chaba Theatre was going to feature a major release on July 17, and would have had that week beforehand to practice running the theatre with the protocols in place. 

But, Wacko said, “That’s been pushed well into August. The next major release is July 24 – who knows whether that is solid or not?”

Jasper Library 

Libraries are also on the list of services that re-open as of June 12, but at the Jasper Library, a number of factors need to be lined up before that happens. 

“It’s not as simple as saying, ‘The library’s going to be open.'” said Sandy Cox, chairman of the Jasper Library Board. “Change is the only constant right now.”

Just one staff member – Angie Thom, director of library services – remained employed when the other four staff members were laid off mid-April. Thom has been working on policies, drafting budgets, fielding calls from people, and keeping track of what’s been sent across the Yellowhead Regional Library System and the Alberta Public Library Branch, Cox said.

Following their June 15 board meeting, a decision was made to acquire personal protective equipment for staff. Plexi-glass shields will be installed and keyboards and mice that can be disinfected between uses have been ordered.

As well, Cox noted a programmer will return to work at the library in late June, which will allow curbside pick-up for books.

And the summer reading program will start soon – an online program. 

Cox said the library will not yet be open to the public but encouraged members to check the library’s website, Facebook page, and local media.

Dwain Wacko, managing director of Chaba Theatre, said the movie industry is not ready to release new movies – creating a unique set of challenges for cinemas.Fuchsia Dragon

Indoor recreation

Jasper Fitness and Aquatic Centre’s doors are still closed for the time being.

Indoor recreation, fitness and sports, including gyms and arenas were brought forward from Stage 3 to Stage 2 of the province’s relaunch plan.

In the municipality’s Emergency Coordination Centre’s update Friday, they wrote: “While provincial directives may authorize facilities to re-open, re-launch plans must follow continually evolving provincial directives and consider the unique factors affecting each community’s relaunch, including staffing, budgets, training, supplies, sanitation procedures, etc.”

They said businesses and local governments across Alberta and Canada are facing the same challenges. No estimated time of reopening was given.

“The reopening of facilities and the resumption of pre-COVID services is complex and things will look different this year,” said the statement.

“We appreciate your kindness and patience as we continue to work through our relaunch plans.”

By Joanne McQuarrie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter/Jasper Fitzhugh