Hotel owner says business is suffering because of laws

  • Jul. 2, 2014 4:31 p.m.

My name is John May. I am the manager of Bowden Hotel in Bowden. I have been the manager here for 13 years but have worked here for 22 years and before that I worked in the Daysland Hotel for three years, so I have 25 years in the industry. In those 25 years I have seen a lot of changes. From being closed on Sundays and Good Fridays and election days until 8 p.m. to being open every day of the year except Christmas day.

In 2006 before the provincial election the MLA for our area Luke Ouellette was seeking re-election he came to the hotel and told me that if we re-elect him and the Ed Stelmach government that they would leave the no smoking law to the local municipalities themselves. But after three months in office they put the no smoking law into effect. With just that one law we lost 30% of our business. That is a big loss for a small town hotel. When I started at this hotel we employed 12 employees now we have four employees.

Before the no smoking law I would have farmers and retirees come in, in the mornings to visit and drink draft beer. They would spend $300 to $500 a day depending on the time of year. But they no longer come in because they have to go outside to have a smoke and when your 55 or older they will not go outside in bad weather.

In 2012 the Redford government brought in the .05 drinking and driving law and with that we lost another 20% of our already declining business. So in six years with these two laws we lost 50% of our business. With no compensation from the government for our lost business instead they raise the prices on the products that we need to serve our remaining clientele. Just two weeks ago while in Kalispell, Montana I had seen a 24 of Kokanee bottles for $18.95 in a corner store. While here to get that same product from ALGC a government run operation it cost hotels $41.83. How can they get that what is made right here in Canada that cheap in the USA.

As a manager of a small town hotel I have enough, the Alberta government keeps saying they want to help small businesses if that’s true why not compensate the small town hotels so they can keep the doors open?

Why not offer a onetime payment of $4,000 per seat in the bar for each rural hotel instead of trying to put them out of business?

With what Premier Redford charge Alberta taxpayers for her personal expenses that amount would save this hotel and maybe even a couple more.

The Alberta government is suing the tobacco industry for billions of dollars.

While they spend all this money on these things I know of three small town hotels that have closed their doors in the last year with three more very close to the same thing. And that’s just between Red Deer and Calgary.

In a lot of the small town hotels around rural Alberta they are the meeting place for a lot of people and organizations. Also they are the first job for a lot of kids after graduating high school so they can still live at their parents to save money for university. The closing of these establishments means they have to either drive to the bigger centers to find jobs or move to a city.

I believe that the Conservative Party will lose a lot of votes in rural Alberta because of this. These problems might not be as evident in the bigger centres and cities but in a small town of 1,500 people it is a major concern.

We are looking for a law firm that is willing to start a class action suit against the Alberta government on behalf of all the small town hotels. Eight-five per cent of the Alberta law firms are working for the government on the cigarette company class action suit, or are working on some other government issue and don’t want to lose their revenue from that. So if there is a law firm that wants to help out small town hotels, please give me a call.

John May