It's no secret that the ongoing pandemic struck a huge blow to Montreal's local businesses. For months, the citywide lockdown forced many business owners to either close their establishments or reorient their business plans to stay afloat. While the provincial and municipal governments have announced several initiatives to help supportsmall businesses, one Old Montreal business owner says she feels like the city has neglected her corner of the neighbourhood.
"I feel like the city could have done more for high traffic areas like Old Montreal," said Magda Slezak, owner of Le Petit Dep on rue Saint-Paul Ouest.
Montreal has installed some safe active pathways to allow for social distancing in the Old Port, but Slezak feels the city could have done more to make the whole area more accessible.
Social distancing is especially difficult on narrow streets like rue St-Paul. "There's no way you can respect a six-feet distance walking on that sidewalk," said Slezak.
"The city could have closed down more streets where there are people walking, and give us a chance to install true access to those streets instead of parking places."
"That kind of action would've attracted more people to come to our stores."
In a statement to MTL Blog the city said that it "has made considerable efforts to support merchants" and that "Ville-Marie is working closely with the borough's commercial development corporations to support its merchants in this economic recovery and makes its decisions accordingly."
But Slezak said she's not sure why some initiatives haven't been more widespread.
"Why not eliminate all of the parking places and let us put up tables and chairs out there and close off the street? That would've helped, for sure."
She has been able to keep her business afloat thanks to government financial support and an online store, but says these additional steps by the city "could've definitely helped" and "made a big difference in terms of bringing people our way and making them feel comfortable circulating in tight spaces."
Still, the business owner is optimistic about the future of her shop and café and hopes government aid and rent relief continue.
"They cannot take that away. It's our lifeline, basically, to be in existence after this is all over."
A recent study by VISA, meanwhile, has found that as much as 33% of Canadian small businesses don't feel supported by their local communities.
It will be up to municipal governments across the country to find ways to better encourage that support.