100 jobs could be lost as downtown Guelph’s dining district closes

Guelph's dining district will be closing on Monday. Cam Guthrie / Twitter

Guelph Mayor Cam Guthrie says he has called a special meeting of city council in an effort to keep the downtown dining district open past Monday.

As many as 100 jobs could be lost if it closes, according to a group of restaurants using the dining district at Macdonell and Wyndham streets, which have jointly penned an open letter.

Read more: City of Toronto allowing portable heaters to extend patio season

Since the second week of July, the intersection has been closed, allowing several restaurants to expand patios onto the road.

The city viewed it as a summer pilot project and had already extended it past the planned closure on Labour Day.

The restaurants had asked for the pilot to be extended again but said city staff declined to grant an extension.

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They said its disappointing to see other municipalities across Ontario extend their dining districts while Guelph goes in another direction.

However, the mayor tweeted on Monday that he is calling a city council meeting for Monday.

“Specifically, to have a vote of council to save the dining district and patio opportunities in downtown Guelph,” Guthrie said.

He also addressed those who have been complaining about the road closure at a key intersection in the downtown.

“You driving through the downtown means 100 people lose their jobs. I think we should take a 30-second detour to help our fellow citizens pay their bills,” Guthrie said.

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The letter states that city staff cite the recent rise in COVID-19 cases as a reason to close, but the restaurants feel keeping people outside is the safer option.

“I guess they feel it’s safer inside,” NV Lounge’s Richard Overland said.

The restaurants said average capacity will be reduced by 68 per cent after Monday when the dining district closes and also stated that many diners are still not comfortable eating inside

“We had zero revenue and income for three months and just got caught up,” Royal Electric owner Conrad Aiken said.

“Now we are going back to weekly and monthly losses. Everyone including our staff is stressed.”

The City of Guelph has said the closed intersection needs to undergo maintenance before the winter, such as road repairs, line painting, and clearing catch basins and storm drains.

Bryan Steele, who owns La Reina, said he has seen this work already underway even before the patios were closed.

“Six months of this until spring will be devastating. For what? To paint some lines. Can’t that wait until spring?” Colton Proveau of Brothers Brewing added.

In an email to Global News, the city said that along with road work and an increase in cases of COVID-19, the city has also heard from a number of businesses in and around the boundary that have had a negative impact from the road closure.

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Read more: Ottawa council extends temporary patio rules into winter months

“Part of the city’s role in supporting economic recovery involves removing barriers and setting as many businesses up for success as possible,” John Regan, the city’s general manager of business, development and enterprise services, said. 

Regan said council has the ability to direct staff to take a different approach or extend the dining district again.

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