Theresa Palmer (left) is the owner of Out of Ireland Irish Imports on Government Street and Julie Renboize is the store manager. Palmer said she supports the changes made to Government Street during the pandemic but hopes it will be back to normal when tourism returns. From June 8 to Oct. 31, Government Street between Humboldt and Yates Streets will be single-lane to give pedestrians priority and more space. Between Fort and View Streets, vehicle traffic is not allowed. The initiative is to help businesses in the area affected by COVID-19. (Shalu Mehta/News Staff)

Victoria businesses voice mixed feelings over Government Street traffic changes

Business owners hope Victorians support local and shop downtown

Downtown Victoria businesses on Government Street have mixed feelings about the City’s decision to close a portion of the street to cars.

As of June 8, Government Street between Humboldt to View streets has transformed with a portion of it becoming single lane traffic to prioritize pedestrians and another portion open to pedestrians only. The initiative is temporary, according to Mayor Lisa Helps, and will run until Oct. 31 before being reassessed.

Helps said the goal is to support businesses hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is intended to facilitate outdoor commercial use, such as allowing restaurants to expand their patios and giving performers and musicians areas to entertain. Pedestrians also have adequate space to physically distance.

The street, which is typically busy with tourists, was empty on a rainy Tuesday afternoon with a few pedestrians walking between shops. Many souvenir stores remain closed or have reduced hours as well.

Out of Ireland Irish Importers store owner Theresa Palmer said she understands the temporary changes to the street are necessary during the pandemic but does not think it should be a permanent step.

“In normal times we would never want the street closed to vehicular traffic,” Palmer said. “We think there’s not enough density in the downtown core for this and also our climate doesn’t necessarily permit the ideal patio lifestyle year-round.”

Palmer said many of her customers are older and prefer to drive rather than walk or bike. The buses from cruise ships also stop just outside the store, bringing more customers in.

“Once tourism begins again we wouldn’t want the street to be closed,” Palmer said.

Cool as a Moose store manager Rosa McCormick said she thinks the additional space is also good for now, but worries it would impact business in the long-run.

“Last summer we stayed open late and as tourists waited to catch their bus, they’d browse,” McCormick said. “We could lose a lot of money if we’re not able to cater to them.”

Couriers will also have to find new places to park their trucks outside of the closed and partially closed zones.

Wheeling a dolly stacked high with packages through Government Street on Tuesday, Fred Riemer said the new restrictions make deliveries difficult.

Trucks have been given some spots to park but they still have to walk deliveries to stores and restaurants. Riemer said he’s worried about there being enough parking for those servicing the area.

“Couriers and delivery people are upset,” Riemer said.

Riemer was delivering a parcel to Old Morris Tobacconist, where sales associate Ricardo Berry noted that a lack of vehicles could make the street safer for pedestrians, and bring in more customers.

“We were worried at first but we’re hoping that as patios expand it’ll bring more people into the street and foot traffic into stores,” Berry said.

While there may not be bus loads of tourists making their way down Government Street this summer, Palmer said she hopes Victorians will opt to have staycations and keep their business local. She said it’s important to note that while souvenir stores sometimes get a bad reputation, many of them are family-owned and rely on tourism in the summer months to stay afloat.

“It’s been absolutely dreadful for business in this area,” Palmer said. “We hope that when people come down they’ll go to restaurants and also do some shopping and support the businesses on Government Street at this time.”

-With files from Nina Grossman.

shalu.mehta@blackpress.ca

City of VictoriaCoronaviruslocal business

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

From June 8 to Oct. 31, Government Street between Humboldt and Yates Streets will be single-lane to give pedestrians priority and more space. Between Fort and View Streets, vehicle traffic is not allowed. The initiative is to help businesses in the area affected by COVID-19. (Shalu Mehta/News Staff)

From June 8 to Oct. 31, Government Street between Humboldt and Yates Streets will be single-lane to give pedestrians priority and more space. Between Fort and View Streets, vehicle traffic is not allowed. The initiative is to help businesses in the area affected by COVID-19. (Shalu Mehta/News Staff)

Riccardo Berry is a sales associate at Old Morris Tobacconist. He said he hopes the changes to Government Street will bring about more foot traffic in the store. (Shalu Mehta/News Staff)

Just Posted

PHOTOS: Small crowd gathers to watch 231-tonne stacker-reclaimer load onto barge crane

The Dynamic Beast barge crane, known for work with Johnson Street Bridge, makes a return

National Drug Drop-Off month aims to reduce substance abuse by house-bound youth

Expert says there is misconception prescribed medication is safe to take

Saanich Peninsula Hospital Auxiliary hosts pop-up fundraiser in Sidney

Temporary store to feature unique hand made gifts, collectibles, clothing, books and more

Victoria mayor wants newspaper boxes removed from downtown streets

Mayor Lisa Helps says the boxes are not needed, often filled with garbage

Esquimalt artists take to great outdoors amid coronavirus

Group invites budding, or just willing artists, to join at Saxe Point

Crews work overnight to try to put out wildfire on Pender Island

Fire department and B.C. Wildfire Service crews extinguishing fire in ‘extremely difficult terrain’

Crews work overnight to try to put out wildfire on Pender Island

Fire department and B.C. Wildfire Service crews extinguishing fire in ‘extremely difficult terrain’

SOOKE HISTORY: A peek into the journal of John George Whiffin

Elida Peers | Contributed One of our most popular walks is on… Continue reading

Michael Buble among 13 British Columbians to receive Order of B.C.

Ceremony will be delayed to 2021 due to COVID-19

U.S. border communities feel loss of Canadian tourists, shoppers and friends

Restrictions on non-essential travel across the Canada-U.S. border have been in place since March 2`

Rollout of COVID-19 Alert app faces criticism over accessibility

App requires users to have Apple or Android phones made in the last five years, and a relatively new operating system

Alleged impaired driver sparks small wildfire near Lytton after crash: B.C. RCMP

Good Samaritans prevented the blaze from getting out of control

Most Read