Arts & Life
Canstar Community News
At a time when businesses across the city are struggling to make up for lost time and space because of COVID-19 restrictions, a Winnipeg summer tradition — street work — is throwing another fork in the road to economic recovery.
The City of Winnipeg’s road construction map, which categorizes completed projects as green and those in progress as orange, is almost entirely tangerine-hued, with dozens of projects underway.
Summer construction is something owners expect, but paired with a pandemic, the torn-up roads are hurting some businesses more deeply than usual in some of the city’s most diverse neighbourhoods.
"It’s affecting our business, for sure," said Ted Mendoza, the owner of Tindahan Food Mart, a Filipino grocery that’s been a staple on Sargent Avenue for more than 30 years.
On Sargent between Arlington and Erin streets, construction began May 4 — just as the province began reopening — and isn’t expected to be finished until the fall, possibly November. There’s currently one lane of traffic, and Mendoza said traffic to his store has slowed considerably.
"We have enough to sustain us," he said, adding that some customers weren’t sure how to get in to the store or its adjacent lot. "There’s nothing we can really do."
On Sunday, many of the businesses in the Sargent construction zone were closed or were operating under decreased hours, but the executive director of the West End Biz said many shop owners were concerned about the effect construction would have on their business.
"We’ve definitely heard from several businesses that are concerned about limited access, and communicating to customers how to get into their place," said Joseph Kornelsen. "Businesses understand construction needs to happen… it’s a hardship."
A long stretch of Corydon Avenue has the same problem, hitting some businesses hard, especially ones struggling to make up for lost profits because of the lockdown in the spring.
"We’ve been greatly impacted by it," said Jarrett Bargen, the manager of Falafel Place, which has long relied on street parking for its customers.
The restaurant reopened June 3 with only seven tables. It has had to remind customers that despite the obstruction caused by construction, it’s open for business. Bargen said the restaurant has a back lot where employees normally park, now it’s being kept open for customer cars.
Business is down 60 per cent, he said. Although the construction can’t be blamed, it certainly isn’t helping, he said.
"It’s a double whammy," he said. With construction not expected to be finished until the fall, Bargen said the restaurant is examining options to expand its seating area. He said they remind customers there’s ample parking on side streets.
"I can’t be too upset (about the construction)," he said. "If the city says they have to do it, they have their reasons, and we just have to do our best to work around it."
That was Mendoza’s sentiment as well, and Kornelsen said the reduced traffic and foot traffic are an added reminder that Winnipeggers should support local businesses.
"Folks can still get to these businesses, and I’d encourage them to go and patronize them, given the hardship of COVID-19 and (the construction)," he said.
Ben Waldman covers a little bit of everything for the Free Press.
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