SAINT JOHN -- The city of Saint John has launched a new pilot project this summer, hoping to help out struggling businesses in the city core amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ‘Open Streets’ program involves temporarily closing certain streets to traffic to give pedestrians more room to physical distance.

Pam Beaton, owner of the Heartbreak Boutique set up a sidewalk sale in front of her clothing shop on Germain St. on Saturday, something she wouldn’t normally be able to do if the street was open to traffic.

“This way we have space out in the street, if somebody isn’t comfortable coming in, then they can at least browse outside,” says Wheaton. “We have a max of six people in the store at any time, and sometimes we do have to turn people away which is frustrating. It’s hard.”

That sense of frustration and difficulty among business owners drove the city to launch the ‘Open Streets’ program, designed to help in the economic recovery of the city during the COVID-19 pandemic.

July 18 marked the second Saturday that parts of Saint John’s uptown have become pedestrian-only for the day.

“Last week we were down on Canterbury Street and a couple of the businesses said they had more people come through during that Saturday than they have since the COVID shutdown happened,” says Kate Wilcott, the Arts and Culture Coordinator for Saint John.

It’s a move that other Maritime municipalities, including Halifax and Moncton, have made as businesses continue to struggle with reduced capacity indoors.

But the program isn’t helping everyone. Jody Kliffer, co-owner of ‘The Five and Dime’ bar says the street closure doesn’t provide much impact for him, as the street reopens at 4:30 p.m., two hours before his bar usually opens at 6:30 p.m.

“We’ve decided to open earlier today to see we can catch the tail end of that crowd,” explains Kliffer.“We have no real sense yet if that’s going to be beneficial or not, but I don’t think bars and restaurants are the target audience for this week’s street closure.”

The pilot project continues next weekend, with Prince Williams Street and Princess Street expected to see closures, as the city rotates through uptown streets in an effort to help out struggling businesses.