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

Ucluelet chamber of commerce searching for new executive director

“Lara did a phenomenal job and we will really miss her.”

Offleash dogs put shorebirds resting on Tofino beaches in jeopardy

“It’s a free-for-all. Most of the violators are locals, I believe, but there are visitors as well.”

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Sept. 20 to 26

Rabbit Day, Hobbit Day and One-Hit Wonder Day are all coming up this week

Tofino’s Race for the Blue fishing derby casts philanthropic net

‘Thankful Thursday’ garners over 7,200 cans of tuna for local food banks

Tofino General Hospital Foundation raising funds for new equipment

“The doctors and nurses are worked off their feet.”

Quirky Canadian comedy ‘Schitt’s Creek’ takes Emmys by storm with comedy sweep

Toronto-raised Daniel Levy and Ottawa-born Annie Murphy both got supporting actor nods

B.C. has highest number of active COVID-19 cases per capita, federal data shows

B.C. currently has 1,803 active cases after weeks of COVID-19 spikes in the province

181 days gone: Family continues to look for man last seen in RCMP custody 6 months ago

Brandon Sakebow’s last known location was leaving Mission RCMP cell, police say; family has doubts

B.C. unveils new cannabis sales programs to help small, Indigenous growers

Government did not say how it will define small producers, but says nurseries will be included in the policy

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

B.C. transportation minister will not seek re-election

Claire Trevena has held the position since 2017

Body discovered floating in water near Lasqueti Island

JRCC reports personnel aboard fishing vessel made the find

Young B.C. cancer survivor rides 105-km with Terry Fox’s brother

Jacob Bredenhof and Darrell Fox’s cycling trek raises almost $90,000 for cancer research

Most Read