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London, Ont., offering free 2-hour downtown parking amid coronavirus pandemic, construction season

Travis Dolynny/AM980 London

The City of London has introduced free downtown parking as part of its Back to Business initiative in hopes of attracting Londoners to visit and support local businesses during the novel coronavirus pandemic, as well as during construction season.

In a statement issued Friday, the City said starting July 10, each vehicle will be eligible to receive two hours of free parking per day at all municipal on-street parking meters and municipal lots in London’s core.

Drivers can use the promotional code ‘B2B20’ on the HonkMobile app to active free parking.

Read more: London city committee unanimously supports shorter time frame for overnight street parking ban

“The local businesses in our core area need an environment that allows them to thrive, and the current pandemic has made things less than ideal for local business owners,” says Mayor Ed Holder.

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“I hope to see Londoners (take) advantage of the complimentary parking promotion to shop local in our community.”

Teresa Tarasewicz, the co-owner of City Lights Book Shop located at Richmond Street and King Street told Jess Brady on 980 CFPL’s Afternoon Show Friday that “anything free is a good thing,” but she has a concern.

“Will people want to put the app on their phone?”

“I know a lot of people don’t (mind) downloading an app on their phone, but others are hesitant.”

The book shop, which has been in operation in the heart of downtown London since 1975, reopened in June in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Tarasewicz says business has never fully recovered.

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“We were really prepared for doom and gloom, to be honest, but we were pleasantly surprised (because) Londoners have been really kind and aware of public health.”

“We’re definitely not getting income like pre-COVID times. However, what we’re finding is fewer people are coming through our doors but they’re also spending more,” said Tarasewicz.

Read more: Edmonton could be first major Canadian city to open up parking rules for new builds

“I think it’s really hard for businesses to redevelop business again, because with COVID-19, everyone is trying to surf on shifting sands.”

Meanwhile, the unemployment rate in London-St. Thomas continues to climb.

Statistics Canada data shows the jobless rate climbed to 12.6 per cent in June, up from 11.7 per cent in May.

The London-St. Thomas region lost 2,700 jobs in June, and the labour force shrunk by 400 while 2,300 more people claimed unemployment.

— With files from 980 CFPL’s Jacquelyn Lebel

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