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COVID-19 pandemic could mean permanent closures for Plus-15 businesses in Calgary

Plus-15 businesses fear pandemic could shut them down
WATCH ABOVE: Calgarians are heading back to the office, but at a slow pace. The city’s empty office towers could mean businesses that rely on foot traffic in the area may close permanently. Jenna Freeman reports.

As Albertans have slowly headed back to public places, downtown office towers in Calgary are still very quiet.

The Plus-15 walkway system downtown had been bustling with activity leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic and now it is nearly empty.

Brian Baisi planned to open up his restaurant in the walkway system on Monday, although he admitted it isn’t even profitable at this point.

“We expect to do five to 10 per cent of our pre-pandemic numbers, “ Baisi said. ”At that point, the business isn’t viable, but at this point, we have to do what we have to do to move ourselves forward.”

Baisi said that during a normal lunch rush there would be nearly 20,000 people that passed by Marcello’s, but now there are dozens.

He’s hoping that by being visible it will help them remain top of mind for customers when more people return to the office.

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“I think we’ll know pretty quick,” he said. “We’re going to see the numbers severely depleted, we`ll know our future almost immediately.”

For now, Baisi has chosen to focus on making sure the restaurant can open safely in the coming week.

Read more: Alberta small business owners shut down amid ongoing COVID-19 pandemic

Geoff Morihira opened his dental practice in the Suncor tower nearly 19 years ago. He said this is the slowest he’s seen it.

Morihira explained that even with loyal patients returning to the office, the practice still relied on walk-ins during the lunch hour.

“Location is key,” Morihira said. “It’s a convenience factor for people in the building to come on their lunch hours.”

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The Calgary Chamber of Commerce said that consumer confidence will play a huge role in the return to downtown office space.

President and CEO Sandip Salli said that by making sure customers feel safe, businesses have a better chance of seeing people come back more quickly.

“Wearing a mask, washing your hands, socially distancing,” explained Salli. “All of that stuff is going to keep our businesses open.”

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Baisi has planned on doing just that. He spent this week cleaning and preparing the restaurant and food service to open the following week, acknowledging it could be months until he knows the long-term effects of the slowdown.