Lethbridge businesses struggle with negative perceptions of downtown

Lethbridge businesses struggle with negative perceptions of downtown
WATCH: Many businesses in Lethbridge’s downtown and surrounding area have had to close their doors in the last few months. Emily Olsen reports.

CORRECTION: This story originally contained an error. Drunken Sailor is not closed and Global News regrets any confusion the story may have caused.

Several businesses in Lethbridge’s downtown and the surrounding area have closed their doors in the last few months.

Other business owners say they are feeling the pinch as well, and attribute much of the struggles to what they say are pervasive negative perceptions of the downtown area.

“It’s very difficult to feel empowered to keep going, and that’s what I think we need to change,” said Plum restaurant owner Erica Pyska.

“There are really a lot of tough messages geared towards downtown, and as business owners and employees of downtown, we’re really feeling the pressure of that.”

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Pyska and other business owners are fighting back though, and meeting with one another and with city officials to address the issue.

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READ MORE: Heart of Our City Committee presents council with annual downtown Lethbridge review

Andrew Malcolm, the manager of Lethbridge Urban Revitalization, met with Pyska on Thursday to discuss the issue.

He says the city is well aware of the situation and has heard concerns over everything from the opioid crisis and taxation to parking.

Malcolm says the city is putting its focus now on listening to the needs of the community and partnering with organizations like the Chamber of Commerce and BRZ to come up with solutions.

“We’re looking to make change and make sure that people come downtown, feel safe downtown, enjoy the businesses and really just enjoy the environment,” Malcolm said.

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He says he does understand why people are feeling discouraged from visiting, but after speaking with other city officials about their experiences, feels the best way to push back is for people to spend more time downtown.

READ MORE: New parking kiosks in place for downtown Lethbridge

“More people and more positivity means businesses are going to succeed,” he said.

“That’s where, as a community, we really need to flip the switch.”

Malcolm says new projects are already in the works to bring the community together.

READ MORE: Lethbridge ‘gets the ball rolling’: first downtown TRIP project begins construction

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Pyska agrees that a stronger community presence is a good start.

“It’s not just about spending money down here, it’s about who we are as human beings,” she said.

Pyska added that musicians and artists could also help create a more welcoming community space. She says businesses and organizations are pulling together now to work towards helping the area thrive.