Employees and businesses in downtown Ottawa and surrounding areas are reeling from a week of financial loss, and some say they will not be able to recover from the loss of income as an anti- vaccine continues near Parliament Hill.
Abby Wright said she has not been able to work at Magpie Jewelery at the Rideau Center since the store closed early Saturday. The store has lost thousands of dollars in revenue — and for Wright, hundreds of salaries — as the mall remains closed until at least February 6.
“I’m getting government money now, which isn’t ideal,” said Wright, the store’s assistant manager, who had to apply for a federal COVID-19 relief benefit this week.
Friday marks a week since a convoy of truckers and protesters began pouring into the nation’s capital. Ottawans who live and work downtown are preparing for another weekend of protests against COVID-19 public health mandates.
Several businesses and even one of the largest shopping centers in the city remained closed. The police chief said on Wednesday that all options were being considered to end the protest, although he was “increasingly concerned that there was no police solution to this”.
Wright says she has attended many protests in Ottawa and considers herself an active member of the community, but she called the protest “rather aggressive.”
“Peaceful protests shouldn’t stop people from going to work,” she said.
Tim DeVries, a Nordstrom barista, said he faced aggressive protesters during his Saturday shift. Now closed, Nordstorm happily pays it for lost shifts.
“I’m very, very, very grateful for that because otherwise I would definitely struggle,” DeVries said. “I know most of the other people working at the mall weren’t so lucky.”
‘It can’t get any worse,’ warns business group
According to a Monday survey of more than 200 downtown and downtown businesses, about 40% say they closed due to disruptions over the weekend.
According to Michelle Groulx, executive director of the Ottawa Business Improvement Areas Coalition, the majority of these businesses — ranging from salons to dental practices to retailers — have lost revenue directly as a result of the protest.
We’re hanging by a thread to get started.– Stewart Cattroll, co-owner of Freshii
“Businesses have been through so much…over the past two years,” Groulx said. “Any chance of making up for that, through income generated in a day, is essential given the amount of debt they have accumulated. [during the pandemic].”
Half of the companies that responded to the survey said they would not be able to recover lost revenue.
“It tells a story that it can’t be salvaged. And even if the protest continues, that it can’t get worse, it has to get better. [for them to survive].”
WATCH | Ottawa Business Coalition on grim survey results:
The Snow Goose Gallery on Sparks Street remained closed for the past week for staff safety, according to owner Ian Wright.
“We were nervous,” he said. “We could be losing between $500 and $1,000 a day because of this.”
Wright says he’s trying to pay his employees a little during the shutdown. He is worried about his daughters who live a few blocks from the demonstration.
“I don’t know if I should be angry or embarrassed because our city has to deal with this stuff.”
Stewart Cattroll, co-owner of Freshii on Bank Street, estimates the restaurant lost around $3,500 last week. It closed at the weekend, but has remained open since Monday on an “extremely limited” basis.
“We have been looking forward to and planning to open for indoor dining,” Cattroll said, referring to the easing of some restrictions in Ontario on Monday.
The restaurant will stick to takeout for now, he said.
“This security situation on Bank Street. It seems very unstable. It’s just one more blow of many,” Cattroll said.
“We’re hanging by a thread to get started. So every day that we can’t…carry on, it has a disproportionate impact.”