Downtown London launches campaign, contest to help core businesses impacted by COVID-19

Bar stools sit stacked inside J. Dee's Market Grill in London, Ont., on May 19, 2020 -- one of many businesses closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bar stools sit stacked inside J. Dee's Market Grill in London, Ont., on May 19, 2020 -- one of many businesses closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Mark Spowart

A new campaign is looking to help small businesses in London’s downtown core that have been hit hard by emergency measures implemented due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The eight-week campaign, “Hit our Bricks… Small is the New Mall”, was officially launched last Tuesday, the same day the province implemented stage one of its reopening framework allowing retail with street-front entrances to reopen.

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Downtown London says many of its members have had to close their doors or shift operations as a result of emergency orders implemented by the province.

To entice shoppers back to the core, the campaign is encouraging Londoners to snap a photo of their most recent purchase to potentially win some “Downtown Dollars” — promotional currency that can be used at member merchants.

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“Each week on a Friday, we will be drawing names for a $500 Downtown Dollar prize,” said Barbara Maley, Downtown London’s executive director, in an interview Tuesday with 980 CFPL’s Devon Peacock.

“All you need to do is snap a photo… of a purchase that you’ve made in downtown, post it to social media, and make sure you tag downtown London.”

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To help shoppers, Downtown London has issued a list of member businesses that are currently open to the public — a list that will be updated every day until all member businesses can reopen their doors, the group says.

With more customers venturing out, many retailers have implemented increased sanitation and safety procedures and other measures, including installing plastic barriers at checkouts, giving hand sanitizer to customers and providing personal protective equipment for staff members.

“I think our merchants have been very responsible in ensuring that things are set up properly in their stores for their customers, and as well for their employees,” Maly said when asked if any businesses have expressed concerns about there being a potential spike in cases.

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Maly said there has been more positivity among members since the province’s stage one plans came into effect.

“We know that this is starting to move in the right direction,” she told 980 CFPL. “They’re hopeful that it will continue, so that as stage one and stage two and so forth, we’re going to see more and more businesses opening in the downtown.”

“I know staff and myself are continually going out and and checking in on our businesses where we can. Certainly, this is a move in the right direction for for them. But cautiously optimistic, of course.”