Business owners say parking difficulties and confusing sidewalk closures drive customers away
November 18, 2021, 4:07 PM ASTLast update: November 18, 2021, 6:50 p.m.
For some businesses in the Spring Garden Road area, construction has been worse than COVID.
Mani Padumati is the manager of Adda Indian Eatery, a small restaurant in the Spring Garden Place food court. He said construction has a big impact on small businesses.
“For the past two months we’ve been really, really in bad shape,” he said.
Construction on the popular shopping street began in June, just after the third COVID-19 lockdown ended. The road closure was originally scheduled to end on November 30, but was extended until the end of December.
When construction is complete, Spring Garden Road will have wider sidewalks for pedestrians and decorative planters. The city is also adding new transit shelters and spaces for public art, burying overhead cables, and repairing water pipes.
For area business owners who were already struggling with the pandemic, construction couldn’t have come at a worse time.
Padumati said when business was down during the pandemic, the restaurant was able to make sales with take-out apps. But when construction began, the pilots of these applications could no longer find parking. This meant longer wait times for its customers and lower ratings on delivery apps. Sales are currently lower than most of the pandemic.
His restaurant is not the only one to suffer.
Ali Alzeer has owned the Mashawee Mediterranean Grill on Dresden Row for 11 years. He said during the pandemic his business was down by about 30-35%, but during construction it was closer to 80%.
“I could sum it all up in one word: disaster,” he said.
Kurt Bulger is the owner of Jennifer’s of Nova Scotia on Spring Garden Road. He said he asked the regional council through the business association to delay construction last June.
“I had lost 75% of my business last year, 13 people were made redundant. I now have five back, but there has to be a better time than this, ”he said.
Sue Uteck is the Executive Director of the Spring Garden Area Business Association. She said that while ideally construction would have started at the start of the pandemic, she didn’t think it would have been beneficial to delay it.
“Restaurants are always going to be down because of COVID. They’re two years behind the ball so they can be 100% packed every night and it’s still not going to catch up, ”she said. “But overall, very few people are complaining that their business is down.”
Responding to criticism that planners had not listened to business concerns, HRM spokeswoman Klara Needler said in an emailed statement that a public engagement campaign was carried out when the city was planning the project.
“Engagement sessions took place between 2018 and 2020 during every phase of the project – from vision to functional design to schematic design,” said Needler.
Needler also highlighted the city’s contribution of $ 15,000 to the business association at the start of construction, and $ 10,000 donated to lessen the impact of the recent delay.
Uteck said the business association spent $ 15,000 on the “We Dig Spring Garden” marketing campaign that encouraged Haligonians to continue shopping on the streets during construction. She said the association is also offering 50 businesses in the area $ 1,000 worth of parking credits from the city to give away to customers.
Spring Garden Road businesses say it’s not enough. Padumati said he believes relief similar to that obtained by companies during the pandemic would be more appropriate.
“There should be some kind of help for us, government help,” he said.
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