Downtown businesses concerned by summer lull at Halifax Convention Centre

Click to play video: 'Downtown businesses hoping business will pick up for Halifax Convention Centre'
Downtown businesses hoping business will pick up for Halifax Convention Centre
WATCH: The Halifax Convention Centre has very few bookings for July and August, which has some neighboring restaurants worried about losing out. – Jun 18, 2019

Local businesses hoping to recoup sales losses incurred during the construction of the Halifax Convention Centre may have to wait a little longer than expected to see their returns.

When the Argyle Street centrepiece opened a little more than a year ago, it brought the hope of financial redemption for some neighbouring restaurants, which saw foot traffic decrease while the 120,000-square-foot facility was being built next door.

But the convention centre is expecting a quiet summer, with just one event booking in the month of July and none in August, prompting some concerns that lucrative lunch hours could soon become fewer and farther between.

“It’ll take us probably — easy — 10 years, maybe more to recoup the losses that we lost for five years,” said Lil MacPherson, co-owner of the Wooden Monkey on neighbouring Grafton Street.

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“It’s a disappointment that they’re not full this summer, which is kind of a drag for all of us down here that kind of went through the whole ordeal for years.”

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WATCH: (April 19, 2018) Behind the scenes at Halifax Convention Centre

Click to play video: 'Behind the scenes at Halifax Convention Centre'
Behind the scenes at Halifax Convention Centre

Dimitri Neonakis, who co-owns the nearby Alexandra’s Pizza, said he’s eyeing the bookings schedule as well. While he moved his business to Grafton Street after the convention centre opened, he’s wary of a boom-and-bust sales cycle that may be tied to the facility’s event traffic.

“We are aware that we might lose some of the lunch business and it is a little bit of a concern,” he told Global News.

“Hopefully the good folks out here might put some events out and bring some traffic our way.”

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Both the Halifax Regional Municipality and the provincial government are on the hook for any losses incurred by the Halifax Convention Centre over the next 25 years.

The facility was built with $169 million of taxpayer money, and in 2018, its deficit was about $4 million.

The province deferred a request for comment on this story to Events East and a Halifax councillor for the area could not be reached.

A spokesperson for the facility said it’s not unusual for any convention centre to experience a summer lull, and traffic is expected to resume in full force with a series of bookings in the fall.

“July and August are typically slower months for this type of facility,” explained Erin Esiyok-Prime of Events East.

“So we really spend the summer getting ready for a very, very busy fall. So we’ll do some routine maintenance, staff training and gear on up.”

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