Home Pub bar Rising insurance rates threaten to cripple COVID-ravaged Alberta restaurants and bars

Rising insurance rates threaten to cripple COVID-ravaged Alberta restaurants and bars

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Rising commercial liability insurance rates threaten to further impact an industry already crippled by COVID-19.

The Dickens Pub in Calgary recently reopened to the public after being closed for most of the past two years. Owner Chris Hewitt said he was excited to reopen until he started getting quotes for his insurance from his broker.

“The quotes we were getting were up to 600% higher,” he told Global News.

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Hewitt asked how it could be and said he was told that because his business was selling alcohol and playing loud music, it was “risky”.

“We’ve been told that basically the degree of risk associated with concert halls and the pandemic is off the charts right now.”

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Hewitt told Global News he is doing everything in his power to minimize any risk in his business and added that he has never filed a liability claim since he was in business – 14 years now .

“The frustration for the live music industry is that there is nothing we can do about it,” he said. “Everyone knows we need to have insurance to be able to operate, so they just tell us ‘This is what it’s going to cost you’ and that’s it, that’s the end of the story.”

He was finally able to get a lower cost, still 60% higher than the original price.

“We’re still looking at around $ 15,000 to $ 16,000 more per year. It is quite shocking.

The Calgary pub is one of many bars and restaurants facing huge insurance hikes.


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The Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) told Global News that in terms of commercial liability, insurers lose a lot of money.

IBC’s vice president for the Pacific region, Aaron Sutherland, said global liability claims in Alberta and Canada had exploded.

“So in Alberta alone, between 2017 and 2019, liability claims almost doubled from just over $ 300 million to over $ 600 million,” Sutherland said.

He added that this included liability claims for these types of sites.

“People get drunk, leave these establishments, go home and hurt themselves or someone else, and then hold these establishments to account.”

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He said the insurance industry is experiencing a growing trend, similar to what has been common south of the border.

“We see a bit of, if I may suggest, an American influence – this contentious influence creeping into Canadian society,” he said.

“We are getting more and more litigious, we are seeing more and more people making claims and lawsuits against establishments if they get injured.”

Sutherland said the increase in the number of claims combined with the increase in court awards is putting enormous pressure on insurance premiums.

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He calls on the provincial and federal governments to consider these two elements, as well as the time limits set t

o file a complaint.

“Currently, they (the applicants) have up to two years if they are injured at any of these facilities,” Sutherland said. “It is an extremely long period and it creates a lot of uncertainty for insurance companies as to what is going on with these claims.”

Sutherland added until all of these things are looked at and changed, the premiums will likely continue to rise.

Hewitt does not dispute the fact that allegations have occurred, but he does not believe to the extent that it has been presented. He also added that anyone can get hurt anywhere, so he’s not sure why sites like his get hit by such hard hikes.

He also asked why the hike “now” and added that it didn’t make sense considering everyone was on hold and not making any claims – certainly not liability claims for drunk and injured customers.

“It doesn’t keep track of what’s going on,” he told Global News. “We’ve all been closed for so long and then when we were all ready to reopen the costs skyrocket.”

“It’s so hard for us to do business right now, it’s been so hard for us to continue like it is with the pandemic, and now this.”

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