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

West Shore Rotary Club raises $20,000 with Golf Ball Drop fundraiser

Nearly 4,000 golf balls poured onto Olympic View golf course Saturday

Construction slows weekend traffic at Millstream overpass

West Shore RCMP recommend Leigh Road exit instead

TRAFFIC: Saanich emergency crews responding to Pat Bay Highway collision

Incident took place at Haliburton Road intersection

Saanich race car driver shifts gears as pandemic cuts U.S. season short

Bill Okell, 65, sets sights on Canadian racing circuit for 2020

Chorus expands online options to in-person rehearsal in Langford, Oak Bay

Free, non-auditioned SingYourJoy recruits those aged 16 to 29

B.C. records 98 more COVID-19 cases, most in Lower Mainland

One new senior home outbreak, Surrey Memorial outbreak over

Vancouver Island Tour de Rock riders roll into Parksville Qualicum Beach

Saturday’s schedule includes Port Alberni, Ucluelet and Tofino, followed by Nanaimo on Sunday

97 distressed horses, cats and dogs seized from farm in Princeton

RCMP assisted as BC SPCA executed search warrant

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

$250K reward offered as investigation continues into Sea to Sky Gondola vandalism

Police also asking for specific footage of Sea to Sky highway around time of incident

Trudeau ‘disappointed’ by RCMP treatment of Sikh officers over mask issue

World Sikh Organization of Canada said taking Sikh officers off the front lines constitutes discrimination

Liberals reach deal with NDP on COVID-19 aid bill, likely averting election

NDP and the Liberals have reached an agreement on COVID-19 sick-leave

Most Read