A moose in an RCMP uniform wearing a mask and a cartoon cardboard cutout of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greet customers at a store selling souvenirs in the Byward Market in Ottawa, on Sunday, July 12, 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. A new survey by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business suggests that businesses in Canada’s city centres are struggling more than their rural counterparts. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

City-centre businesses mount slower recovery than rural areas, CFIB says

Data shows 22 per cent of businesses polled in urban cores are at normal levels of sales compared to 37 per cent in rural areas

Before COVID-19, Dame Nature Restaurant — surrounded by a train station, hotel and offices in downtown Montreal — was boosted by its location. In a typical September, the restaurant relies on office workers and other commuters for traffic once the tourism season slows down, says manager Cezar Narea.

Now he envies the restaurants an hour outside the city, where locals hoping to avoid parking, construction and crowded sidewalks are flocking instead.

Dame Nature isn’t the only business seeing the tables turn, according to a new survey by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, which suggests that businesses in Canada’s city centres are struggling more than their suburban and rural counterparts.

CFIB data released on Wednesday indicates that 22 per cent of businesses polled in urban cores are at normal levels of sales compared to 37 per cent in rural areas.

Overall, 66 per cent of survey respondents say their business is fully open, with 40 per cent are fully staffed and 28 per cent are making normal sales. CFIB represents about 110,000 small- and medium-sized businesses, and 5,119 members responded to the online survey, which ran from Aug. 13 to Aug. 18.

The polling industry’s professional body, the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association, says online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error because they do not randomly sample the population.

Like Narea, CFIB executive vice-president Laura Jones says that empty downtown offices and non-existent international tourism are likely to blame.

Narea estimates that sales are still down about 80 per cent, with the restaurant relying on a trickle interest from maitanence staff at nearby buildings. Once in a while, his regular patrons will drop by to say hello — only to announce they are picking up something from the office, where they won’t return until January 2021 or beyond.

With government support programs coming to an end, and trains remaining on reduced schedules, Narea says he is worried about whether they will lose their 12 former staffers for good.

“Everybody is trying to avoid downtown Montreal,” he says. “It’s going to be a very bad situation for us.”

READ MORE: ‘Real jobs, real recovery’ needed after COVID-19, resource industries say

Anita Balakrishnan, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

BusinessCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19 cases in Alberta up by 153 Wednesday

Central zone sits at 19 active cases

160 new COVID-19 cases reported in Alberta on Tuesday

Province now has 1,571 active cases

Return to class has gone better than expectation, WCPS says

Staff with Wolf Creek Public Schools say the return to in-class teaching has gone very well

PHOTOS: Eighth annual Wood Show in Lacombe

Central Alberta Wood Workers and Woodturners Guild hosted its annual show recently

No safe mask option for bearded members, RCMP says, but force is exploring solutions

RCMP says respirator not mandatory in all front-line situations, but sometimes needed to reduce risk

Health Canada green-lights rapid COVID-19 test

Health Canada approved the BCube test from Hyris Ltd. in the United Kingdom Sept. 23

Albertans the speediest behind wheel, according to national dangerous driving survey

Finder.com looks into dangerous and reckless driving habits across the country

Metis pilot Teara Fraser profiled in new DC Comics graphic novel of women heroes

The Canadian pilot’s entry is titled: ‘Teara Fraser: Helping Others Soar’

Leduc Man still missing, RCMP concerned for his well being

31-year-old Ryan Mcleod has been missing since Sept. 10, 2020.

Sylvan Lake family says they are ‘blessed’ to have found their home in Central Alberta

Onsy and Rosemary Tawadrous immigrated to Canada in 2011 and made their home in Sylvan Lake

Tractor fire east of Ponoka doused

Flames extinguished with foam additive

Wetaskiwin restaurant asks City for help with excessive property damage caused by continuous loiterers

Employees say that they are scared for themselves and their customers.

Most Read