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Bernard Avenue in Kelowna, B.C. may close sooner this year

Click to play video: 'Bernard Avenue may close over a month earlier this year'
Bernard Avenue may close over a month earlier this year
WATCH: During the summer months, Kelowna is full of tourists and businesses in the downtown core see a huge uptick in customers. Since 2020, on Canada Day, Bernard Ave. has been closing to vehicular traffic allowing more people to explore the downtown core on foot. But now a new proposal has come forward to close the street even earlier. Jasmine King has more. – Mar 30, 2023

During the summer months, Kelowna, B.C. is full of tourists and businesses in the downtown core see a huge uptick in customers.

Since 2020, on Canada Day, Bernard Avenue has been closing to vehicular traffic, allowing more people to explore the downtown core on foot.

Meet Me on Bernard has become a yearly tradition in Kelowna, however, it might start earlier this year.

“The city staff from the event department at the city did a whole bunch of engagement, talked to the people around. What they’ve come up with is to only propose for the May long weekend on for the 200 block to be closed,” said Mark Burley, executive director of the Downtown Kelowna Association.

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City council will be asked to approve the early closure for that one downtown block on Monday.

For businesses in the 300 to 500 block of Bernard between Water and St. Paul streets, while the road will remain open to vehicles until July 1st, they will have the choice to expand operations early by using the parking spots in front of their store.

“I think that it will definitely bring more people walking around on the streets and you know might bring more people in rather than just the cars driving by,” said Averie Blais, barista at Bean Scene Coffee Works.

For new restaurants like La Vela Pizzeria, they hope it will improve their customer base.

“I think it’s great for especially restaurants. We’ll have more space with our patio to extend out to the parking stalls. I don’t see a problem with it but people have their opinions about it,” said Nav Sandhu, manager of La Vela Pizzeria.

Click to play video: 'Kelowna’s mayor likes idea of making a stretch of Bernard Avenue pedestrian-only for longer than just July and August'
Kelowna’s mayor likes idea of making a stretch of Bernard Avenue pedestrian-only for longer than just July and August

Although it’s not mandatory for businesses to take part until July, retail stores in the downtown core have mixed feelings about the street not being accessible by vehicle for months.

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“For retail, people are just going to walk in the middle of the street, they’re not really gonna check out the stores as much as they would if they were on the sidewalk, they look in a window and they’re like, ‘Oh, cool pet store,'” said Andrea Dagraca manager of Social Pets.

However, shoe store ABco says the majority of their business comes from those walking the avenue.

“The sooner the better for us, we’ll have a lot more eyes and a lot more foot traffic in the store. We would like as many people as we possibly can,” said ABco stock manager Elio Spadavecchia.

The Downtown Kelowna Association says it’s been working with city staff on this proposal since last year, including engaging with business owners.

“The city events department has done a phenomenal job of mapping out the yes for Meet Me on Bernard, the no and the maybes. It’s been done really well, there’s lots of information for city council to just affirm what we’ve been doing for the last three years or to change it however they wish,” said Burley.

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