Meals for thought: Edmonton eating places go on NHL bubble over lockdown obligation to the general public

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Jeff Labine

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15th July 202020th July 2020Read for 3 minutes 7 comments The Mercer Building can be seen near Rogers Place on 104 Street in Edmonton on Wednesday, July 15, 2020.  Rogers Place will host the NHL's return to the hockey tournament including the Stanley Cup finals. The Mercer Building can be seen near Rogers Place on 104 Street in Edmonton on Wednesday, July 15, 2020. Rogers Place will host the NHL’s return to the hockey tournament including the Stanley Cup finals. Photo by Ian Kucerak /Postal media

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Some Edmonton restaurants forego the ability to be part of the NHL bubble when they have to close their doors to the public.

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To minimize the possible spread of COVID-19, the league wants to establish a safe zone for everyone involved, including the players and their families. The boundaries have been defined to include hotels, restaurants, the arenas and exercise facilities. In Edmonton, one of the two hubs next to Toronto, Rogers Place, the Downtown Community Arena and the Terwillegar Community Recreation Center are used.

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Once someone is in the safe zone or bubble, they are expected to stay there.

With the teams expected to arrive on July 26th, the NHL plans to expand dining options to include local restaurants.

JOEY Bell Tower general manager Nekko Leiterman said the NHL came forward last week but the restaurant turned down the offer because it had to close to the public.

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“We will remain open to the public,” he said. “We look forward to seeing everyone for the playoffs.”

Bryan Schmidt, the operating partner of the Mercer Tavern, said even though the league hasn’t reached him, it doesn’t seem worth closing it to the public. He said the NHL’s primary focus is on good food from all he has heard.

“From what I’ve heard, when you’re in the bladder, you’re in the bladder,” he said. “You can’t take a few hours to close. Either you’re in or you’re out. It was great that they chose Edmonton as (a) hub and our proximity to Rogers (Place). We’re just happy to have the playoffs back and a reason for people to come out. “

He said bars like Mercer benefit a lot from big sporting events like the playoffs because people want to go out to see the game on the big TV screens that bars and restaurants offer.

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Schmidt said he would like to take care of the league if they could do that.

Patrick Saurette, co-owner of the Marc restaurant, was like Schmidt of the opinion that the NHL had to prove that it is worthwhile to close the doors to the public.

“We have been open for about four weeks now and feel like we have a really great room that can hold a good number of people,” he said. “We feel like we’ve got some momentum back in the community, and I really don’t want to lose that momentum, especially when I’m heading into fall for some kind of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, as fun as it may have been.”

Tim Shipton, senior vice president of corporate communications at Oilers Entertainment Group, said in an email that the company is finalizing the food and beverage program for the bubble and has reached out to numerous restaurants across the city.

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“We want to make sure that Edmonton’s food scene is well represented and that players and staff within the bubble experience all that the city has to offer,” he said. “We also want to make sure there is a variety of food options – one type would get boring quickly.”

The NHL was asked for comments but did not respond in a timely manner.

Gary Tomchuk, managing partner of Sherlock Holmes Hospitality Group, said in an email that the restaurant had not been approached by the league and without knowing all the details that would be required to be part of the bubble, he could sign up do not express.

Exhibition games are scheduled for July 28-30, with Stanley Cup qualifiers starting August 1st.

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Twitter.com/jefflabine

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