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Coronavirus: Community rallying together to save Winnipeg’s Park Theatre

The Park Theatre. Amber McGuckin/Global News

While some Manitoba businesses have had to shut down for good due to the economic impacts of the novel coronavirus pandemic, some Winnipeggers are hoping it’ll be a different tune for the Park Theatre.

The community has rallied together to raise more than $7,000 of a $20,000 GoFundMe goal.

READ MORE: ‘We’re bleeding’: Manitoba restaurant, bar owners say Phase 3 doesn’t go far enough

Erick Casselman, the owner of the Park Theatre, says they’ve lost about 160 shows after having to shut down due to COVID-19 in March.

“It really hammered us and took a lot off the plate with us and put us in a tough position,” he said.

“I was honestly adamant against it because I was like, ‘We’re a business, I am a business, I have credit cards, I have lines of credit’, so I just kept taking on more debt, more debt.”

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Casselman says his friend Mat Perlman saw the stress he was enduring and didn’t think the venue would survive over the summer.

“Twenty thousand dollars honestly will help us limp through July and August and again, it’s hard for me to do this because I think businesses should live and fail on their own but if we want to survive we have to do something,” he said, getting emotional.

“It’s amazing to see and I’m extremely thankful, extremely, extremely thankful.”

Starting Wednesday the Park Theatre will start having shows with a limited crowd to follow physical distancing rules.

Click to play video: 'Manitoba businesses should prepare to live with COVID-19 “for the foreseeable future”'
Manitoba businesses should prepare to live with COVID-19 “for the foreseeable future”

The Park Theatre isn’t alone in their struggles. The Manitoba Chambers of Commerce says the tourism industry has been hit the hardest here in the province.

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“There’s no question that businesses throughout the province have been impacted by this and I think what our results show is close to 70, almost 80 per cent of businesses in Manitoba have been impacted in some form or another — specifically financially,” president and CEO, Chuck Davidson said.

“This has caused some significant hardships for some businesses, of whether or not to open and some businesses have had to make the difficult decision to say you know what we can’t be sustainable through this so we have to close our doors.”

READ MORE: Popular Winnipeg restaurant in Osborne Village closing permanently

Davidson says the businesses that seem to have been hit the hardest require foot traffic and customers to visit their stores.

He hopes with increased government supports and consumer confidence, businesses can recover.

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