The City of Winnipeg is launching a flexible work program that will see some employees work remotely permanently, and many downtown business owners are less enthusiastic.
“We’re not too happy about it,” said Seka Lussier, operations manager of the King’s Head Pub.
“It’s hurting us incredibly and it’s completely ignoring all the local downtown businesses because we still have to pay property taxes, but now we have to deal with it without foot traffic.”
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She says foot traffic is something their business desperately needs, especially with lunchtime and after-work crowds.
“It transforms downtown from a local neighborhood into a destination that people have to go out of their way to get to,” she said.
“We need foot traffic.”
Bagelsmith owner Phil Klein says it’s another item to add to a long list of setbacks for his business, which opened during the pandemic.
“From our point of view, is this ideal? No. But we’ve been pretty roughed up since we opened our doors,” Klein told Global News. “It was nothing but roadblocks and obstacles, so (we’re) no strangers to adversity.
“We’ll keep rolling bagels and rolling with the punches and I hope people keep coming.”
Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Loren Remillard says while he recognizes the need for flexibility, he hopes the city takes a balanced approach.
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“I understand that as an employer, the city is no different from any other employer. (They) face a struggle for qualified individuals and there are options for individuals and one of the things people are looking for is that flexibility,” Rémillard said.
“However, like any other employer, the city has a responsibility to the community as a whole, and right now we know our downtown needs more people to come back downtown. So I think what we’re looking for from the city is a balance in how they’re going to approach this remote work. »
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For Harrisons Coffee Co., business has remained steady during the pandemic. Owner Al Dawson says they are doing well despite the challenges of the pandemic and will be opening a new location soon.
He says more foot traffic is always welcome, but he understands the city’s need to meet the expectations of its employees.
“I think like businesses, the city has to adapt to people’s expectations,” Dawson said. “While it may impact us in the short term, I think it will allow more companies to come into the core and get more affordable space and maybe even share the space.”
“Of course we need to see more people here, otherwise businesses like mine won’t survive,” he added. “But we have to take care of our people and put our people first.”
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