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

Interior Health reports three additional COVID-19 cases in region

The number of cases in the region since the beginning of the pandemic are now at 492

Interior Health continues to tackle COVID-19

IH president Susan Brown says don’t become complacent about pandemic

Conservative opposition critic tours through Kootenay riding on listening tour

Pierre Poilievre, the Tory finance critic, gathering local feedback on pandemic supports, recovery issues

Fundraiser set up to help 10-year-old Summerland girl with cancer

Danica Yeoman is undergoing treatment at BC Children’s Hospital

Professional development for physiotherapists comes to Golden

Normally physios and massage therapists have to travel long distances for this kind fo course

3 new deaths due to COVID-19 in B.C., 139 new cases

B.C. confirms 40 ‘historic cases,’ as well

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

The court’s second female justice, died Friday at her home in Washington

‘This is a very difficult sentencing’; Judge delays Okanagan manslaughter trial to next week

The courts heard Friday that Bourque “did not intend to cause harm” but that her actions were “reckless”

Emaciated grizzly found dead on central B.C. coast as low salmon count sparks concern

Grizzly was found on Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw territory in Smith Inlet, 60K north of Port Hardy

VIDEO: B.C. to launch mouth-rinse COVID-19 test for kids

Test involves swishing and gargling saline in mouth and no deep-nasal swab

Young Canadians have curtailed vaping during pandemic, survey finds

The survey funded by Heart & Stroke also found the decrease in vaping frequency is most notable in British Columbia and Ontario

B.C. teachers file Labour Relations Board application over COVID-19 classroom concerns

The application comes as B.C.’s second week of the new school year comes to a close

CHARTS: Beyond Metro Vancouver, COVID-19 cases in B.C. haven’t increased much recently

COVID-19 case counts outside of Metro Vancouver have been level since July

70-year-old punched in the head in dispute over disability parking space in Nanaimo

Senior’s turban knocked off in incident at mall parking lot

Most Read