Fredericton plans to assist businesses hurt by COVID-19
FREDERICTON -- Following two weeks without new COVID-19 cases in New Brunswick, the city of Fredericton is trying to help businesses to adapt and prepare for an unusual summer season.
Nearly seven weeks since the province declared a state of emergency, businesses have been feeling the economic burden. Downtown Fredericton's restaurants and tourism operators have sent many of their 12,000 employees home – but many are hoping May will bring positive and prosperous change.
Downtown Fredericton Incorporated general manager, Bruce McCormack believes restaurants will have to maintain the limited 50 per cent capacity inside to ensure physical distancing – which could hurt some businesses even further.
"The premier hasn't come out with a criteria yet," says McCormack. "But we're guessing that with physical distancing a lot of our restaurants downtown that are small are going to have a real difficult time being able to keep their capacity."
However, McCormack has a solution.
"Takeout downtown was never really a business, other than the pizza joints – but now it's a reality," says McCormack. "Festivals are out, events are out; so, the city has a supply of picnic tables and other seating that we can use all summer; we will put a hard plastic cover over them, we'll hire staff to clean them."
And the city has already contemplated areas in which they can install the where these makeshift outdoor patios. Ideas for spots include outside city hall, Barracks Square and Carleton Street, as well as along the riverfront.
As of Saturday, the location suggestions remain possibilities as the details are still being finalized.
Additionally, the city has also waived fees for outdoor patios and bylaws have loosened to allow patios to expand beyond the front of a restaurant – if it's okay with their neighbouring businesses.
"Everyone is trying to keep that business local, whether it's Mothers Day gifts, going out and getting takeout for supper," says Fredericton Tourism and Events manager, Stacey Russell. "A lot of people are going to different locations and restaurants that they never would have tried before – so it's also raising awareness."
The Tourism Industry Association of New Brunswick has been doing phone surveys of tourism operators across the province. In April, 20 per cent of tourism operators said they will have to close permanently if business closures continued for three months.
Meanwhile, Fredericton Tourism is encouraging residents to buy local.
"This is tough waters," says Russell. "It's incredible for these businesses, so we should do everything within our power to be able to help."
Making matters even harder is the fact that some of downtown Fredericton businesses have taken a hit for two consecutive years as historic flooding has caused damage and closures – making the COVID-19 pandemic another problematic blow.
Meanwhile, a joint effort between business leader Stephen Burns, NHL player Jake Allen and his wife Shannon has raised over $210,000 – including a $100,000 donation from the Sara Burns Forever fund—to help service industry workers in the city who lost their job because of the pandemic.