Alberta orders closure of non-essential businesses

28 March 2020

As the number of COVID-19 cases grow in Alberta, the Provincial Government has ordered stricter measures that apply to individuals and businesses. On March 17, 2020, the Alberta Government declared a public health emergency due to the presence of COVID-19. Further to the declaration of the public health emergency and in an effort to slow the spread of the virus, the Alberta Government implemented public health orders (collectively, the "Alberta Orders") restricting mass gatherings of more than 15 people unless a business provides essential services. The Alberta Orders also require certain non-essential businesses to close immediately. Additionally, the number of individuals permitted to gather has been reduced from 50 to 15.

What is the effective date of the Order?

The Premier stated that the Alberta Orders are effective immediately.

What is considered an essential service?

The following services have been deemed to be essential. Workplaces that are operating as an essential service are not subject to the Alberta Orders and are permitted to have more than 15 workers on a work site, as long as they follow all public health guidelines, including physical distancing measures.

  • Health, medical and public health services
  • Public safety and security services
  • Food and shelter
  • Energy and utilities
  • Water
  • Transportation
  • Industrial
  • Petroleum, natural gas and coal
  • Construction
  • Agricultural and horticultural
  • Retail (with the exception of non-essential retail services listed below)
  • Financial services
  • Information and telecommunications
  • Public administration and government
  • Businesses providing mailing, shipping, courier and delivery services, including post office boxes
  • Laundromats, dry cleaners and laundry service providers
  • Professional services including lawyers and paralegals, engineers, accountants, translators
  • Businesses providing funeral, mortician, cremation, transfer, and burial services, and any related goods and products (such as coffins and embalming fluid)
  • Land registration services, and real estate agent services and moving services
  • Businesses providing security services including private security guards; monitoring or surveillance equipment and services
  • Businesses providing staffing services, including temporary help
  • Businesses that support the safe operations of residences and essential businesses
  • Businesses that provide for the health and welfare of animals, including veterinarians, farms, boarding kennels, stables, animal shelters, zoos, aquariums, research facilities and other service providers
  • Child care services for essential workers, and home child care services of less than six children
  • Environmental services for agriculture, mining, oil and gas
  • Waste management including landfills and hazardous waste treatment

Each of the above categories is further expanded upon on the Alberta Government's website, which can be viewed here: Alberta's Complete List of Essential Services

What is considered a non-essential business?

The Alberta Government has provided a list of the non-essential businesses that are required to close immediately. As of publication, the following businesses are considered non-essential:

  • Personal and cosmetic services including hair salons and barbershops, tattoo and piercing studios and esthetic services.
  • Wellness studios and clinics including massage and reflexology.
  • Non-emergency and non-critical health services provided by regulated health professionals or registered professionals including dentistry, physiotherapy, massage, podiatry, chiropractic and optometry services.
  • Retail stores including clothing and gaming stores, book stores, hobby stores and antique stores. Retail business are permitted to offer online shopping and offer curb-side pickup.
  • Dine-in restaurant services. Restaurants are still permitted to offer takeout and delivery.

Under a previous order, the following recreational and entertainment facilities have already been ordered to close:

  • gyms, swimming pools, arenas;
  • science centres, museums, art galleries;
  • libraries, community centres, children's play centres, bowling alleys;
  • bars and nightclubs, where law prohibits minors; and
  • casinos, racing entertainment centres, bingo halls.

For a complete list of businesses that have been ordered to close, visit Government of Alberta: Restriction on Gatherings and Businesses page.

Please note the list of essential and non-essential services, and the public health restrictions, are subject to change as the COVID-19 circumstances continue to develop. 

We invite you to contact a member of Gowling WLG's Alberta Essential Services Team, Krista Schofer and Zafar Jaffer, if you have questions regarding the impact that this will have on your business, including questions regarding terminations, layoffs and leaves.


NOT LEGAL ADVICE. Information made available on this website in any form is for information purposes only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. You should not rely on, or take or fail to take any action based upon this information. Never disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking legal advice because of something you have read on this website. Gowling WLG professionals will be pleased to discuss resolutions to specific legal concerns you may have.