Metro Restaurant Halifax

'A punch in the stomach': Halifax businesses near Nova Centre construction losing money

The owner of a popular Halifax restaurant says the latest hurdle due to nearby construction feels like “a punch in the stomach.”

Lil MacPherson, co-owner of The Wooden Monkey, said business has taken a downturn since the development of Nova Centre began a few years ago, but closing access to the eatery is the “next round of torpedo shooting.”

Traffic closures began earlier this week on Prince Street and are slated to take five days between Brunswick and Argyle streets, plus 15 days between Brunswick and Grafton.

“We’re scared, we’re fearful, ” MacPherson said Thursday about talks with co-owner Christine Bower.

“Closing … going into the Christmas season is just a punch in the stomach.”

Although MacPherson said the restaurant has been a staple in the neighbourhood for years, they’ve had more than a 25 per cent loss in sales while their bills (including $22, 000 in annual property tax) stay the same.

MacPherson said she’s been even handing out coupons to entice people to come in because they now have to be “creative.”

The first day they closed Prince Street down this week, MacPherson said Bower called her at lunch in tears to say “nobody’s here.”

The “ripple effect” of lost sales means they’ve cut back on staff hours and farmers that supply the restaurant have also taken a hit, MacPherson said.

The city should step in to compensate those places in danger of closing, MacPherson said, since bars, stores and eateries are what made the area a viable option for the Nova Centre in the first place.

Mayor Mike Savage said Thursday he “hates” to see people losing business and is open to any suggestions, as well as looking at the mitigation report once it’s done.

“There are certain things that happen which are inconvenient, but this goes above and beyond that, ” Savage said.

“We have to figure out what we’re going to do about it.”

Free parking in Scotia Square or the street would help for those shopping downtown, MacPherson said, or some other tax compensation.

“We’re the heartbeat, ” MacPherson said.

“There’s no planning how they’re going to … support and promote small businesses that are already there so they don’t create a ghost town.”

Local businesses, including the Wooden Monkey, are reflecting in glass being installed on the Nova Centre on Thursday.

Jeff Harper/Metro

Local businesses, including the Wooden Monkey, are reflecting in glass being installed on the Nova Centre on Thursday.

City 'dropped the ball' without plan to help construction issues: councillor

Downtown businesses losing money due to nearby construction with no mitigating plan in place is “totally unacceptable, ” says the area councillor.

Stores and restaurants surrounding the Nova Centre site have been seeing less foot traffic and a downturn in business for months, but the closure of parts of Prince and all of Market streets to car traffic in the weeks leading up to Christmas hits especially hard.

“It’s totally unacceptable, ” Coun. Waye Mason said Thursday.

“All the businesses are equally important.”

Mason said he hoped to avoid this by asking for a report on construction mitigation last January, which was supposed to come back to council in June. It’s now been pushed back to the new year.

“The city’s really dropped the ball, ” Mason said.

Without a report to suggest solutions like preventing the developer from closing streets unless in extreme situations for a short time, or having better hoarding walls that cover up dirt and noise from the site, Mason said the city is unprepared to handle the situation.

“There are literally no rules. We have very little ability to control this, ” Mason said.

Until now, most large developments have gone up in the suburbs where there’s more space and parking, Mason said.

Part of mitigation could mean if streets do close, those affected owners would be compensated for lost business by the developer, Mason added, similar to what happens when a movie company shoots a scene on a street.

It's Interesting

  • Brian Turner CBE (born 7 May 1946 in Halifax, West Riding of Yorkshire) is a British chef, based in London. He has appeared as a cook on BBC2's Ready Steady Cook since 1994 as well as presenting other cookery programmes.
    Turner's mentor was the food writer and...
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