These last few months have been challenging and surreal. For some of us, this time has meant new working arrangements, home schooling the kids, social isolation, and anxiety. For many downtown business owners and employees, there is also grave concern for the future of their establishments, income, and jobs.
Some businesses, like bars, restaurants, and personal services, were ordered to close. Many others opted to close for the safety and well-being of the community. The economic hardships suffered by these businesses is unparalleled. Thousands of employees lost their jobs, and the uncertainty of when, or if, those jobs will return weighs heavily on their shoulders.
British Columbians — especially Vancouver Islanders — have, with Dr. Bonnie Henry’s leadership and the provincial government’s response, fared better than most North American jurisdictions. As a result, we find ourselves at the onset of reopening the local economy.
Downtown businesses are keen to welcome you back.
They are working tirelessly to implement all guidelines being set by the provincial health officer, Island Health, and WorkSafeBC. Business owners’ top priority is the safety of customers and staff. Just as we have confidence shopping at the grocery store, pharmacy, and other essential services, downtown businesses recognize the necessity for the public to feel safe shopping and dining downtown.
It is critical that now, more than ever, we support our local businesses. The best way to help our Victoria economy is to spend our dollars in Victoria. We have one of the best mid-sized downtowns in North America, and if we all focus on making local buying decisions, we can recover faster and stronger.
Unlike in previous years, tourism will not be a major focus of downtown for 2020. This year, locals have the opportunity to fill that void and enjoy our beautiful region. This includes, as they reopen, supporting tourism-based businesses in downtown. These businesses need economic activity in order to rehire laid-off staff, purchase from their local suppliers, pay for ad space in radio, TV, and in the local papers, and to pay taxes to municipal, provincial, and federal governments.
Downtown Victoria looks forward to inviting you downtown for a day of shopping, wandering, sipping, eating, discovering, and connecting. Your dollar has more power and value than ever before. So please, if you have the means, support local businesses.
Jeff Bray is the executive director of the Downtown Victoria Business Association.