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Construction coupled with COVID-19 means slow business for downtown Regina shops

Click to play video 'Construction coupled with COVID-19 means slow business for downtown Regina shops' Construction coupled with COVID-19 means slow business for downtown Regina shops
WATCH: Victoria Avenue construction has most of the street and sidewalk closed off outside Brewed Awakening in Regina creating problems for business.

It’s déjà vu for Regina downtown businesses along Victoria Avenue as another construction season blocks off traffic.

The Victoria Avenue Infrastructure and Beautification Project is in its second and final year, but restricted streets coupled with coronavirus has shops like Brewed Awakening feeling the pinch now more than ever.

“We still have some loyalty here, but it’s been tough between COVID-19 and now this,” said Brewed Awakening owner Ken MacMurchy

Read more: ‘We’re drowning’: Construction woes continue for Victoria Ave. businesses

MacMurchy, who runs five Brewed Awakenings in the city, said the Victoria Avenue location is “at the bottom of the pile,” business-wise.

While it’s tough to gauge if COVID-19 or the construction hurt business the most, he estimates the store’s revenue is down 80 per cent.

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“Everyone on the block that’s in retail here has gone through this because they’ve been working on this [construction project] for a couple of years,” MacMurchy said.

The two-year construction project started work between Albert Street and Cornwall Street in spring 2019.

Fresh and Sweet faced similar financial challenges as a result.

Read more: ‘It’s just rough for everybody’: Regina construction zone hurting local business

Construction blocked off parking spots and closed sidewalks, essentially fencing off the café from customers.

“We learned a lot from the Fresh and Sweet experience and I’m really sorry they basically had to go through that alone because there were really the only forward-facing customer-type business in the construction zone,” said Judith Veresuk, executive director of Regina Downtown Business Improvement District.

“This year we worked closely with the city to make sure places like Brewed Awakening and Queen City Cakes were well aware of the closures and where people could access their storefronts.”

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The second half of the construction project, which started in April, moves eastward from Cornwall Street to Broad Street.

Read more: City of Regina details progress, lessons learned in summer construction update

Traffic is currently restricted between Lorne and Hamilton.

“In some ways, the construction is almost better happening this year when it’s kind of expected to be a slower summer just due to the pandemic,” Veresuk said.

“A lot of the businesses have had to resort to online, delivery (and) takeout because of COVID-19, so continuing to lean on those forms of revenue generation through the construction will better position themselves.”

MacMurchy said he’s taking it in stride, choosing not to worry about what he can’t control.

Read more: Regina Downtown Business Improvement District supports local shops as Phase 3 begins

“In the big picture it’s going to be good for the city. It’s going to look better and it’s going to be good for us. We just have to tough it out,” he said.

Between landlord support and COVID-19 government aid, MacMurchy is confident he will be able to keep the doors open.

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The construction project is expected to be complete by October.

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