After just over two months of pedestrian and patio paradise, Kelowna’s COVID-19 closure of Bernard Avenue is coming to an end. Naturally, the question on a lot of people’s minds is will this Bernard block-off become part of the new normal?
“I think it has been a success,” said Mark Burley of the Downtown Kelowna Association.
As the organization’s executive director, Mark Burley has heard good reviews with regards to the street closure from some members.
“(They) are experiencing what they feel are great sales considering we are in COVID-19, in particular for the restaurants who have been able to expand their patios,” Burley said.
But there are two sides to the Bernard Avenue closure story when it comes to commerce and Burley has also heard the bad.
“We have some businesses who it hasn’t worked out so well for,” Burley told Global News Monday.
In order to properly gauge member sentiment, the Downtown Kelowna Association, or DKA, recently conducted a survey.
“It was split right down the middle so there is varying degrees of success I think,” Burley said.
Despite the fact that Cruzwear Unlimited is located away from the majority of patios and restaurants on Bernard Avenue, owner Doreen Velin says the closure hasn’t limited sales at her swimwear boutique.
“This year it’s 20 per cent over last year, which is about our regular summer, and the same with August. We are actually doing better this year,” Velin said
Across the street at Healing Hollow Essential Oil Company, manager Jenna Savoi is unsure whether or not the closure should be repeated.
“It’s sort of hard to judge because we have only been here for one summer last year,” said Savoi.
Savoi isn’t sure the closure got a lot of local buy in.
“I don’t think (locals) maybe seemed to take as much advantage as the tourists. The locals seemed to be annoyed that they had to find parking,” Savoi said.
But Monday, in a casual canvass of the street, Kelowna residents’ reviews were pretty positive when it came to the Bernard Avenue closure program.
“What I really like about it is that the restaurants are able to spill out on to the streets, I really like the vibe” said one Kelowna woman.
“I’d love to see it year after year and once we are beyond COVID-19 there will be crowds down here as there are during some of the festivals,” added another Kelowna man.
However, whether or not residents will see a repeat will be decided by city council based on information collected during the program.
“To make sure that the decision is data driven and not just based on opinion, because everyone is on each side and it’s kind of 50/50 at this point,” said Kelowna City Councillor Loyal Woolridge.
Starting Sept. 8, patios will be packed up and cars will be crowding Bernard Avenuecklo until a decision is made for next summer.