No one in Montreal needs a reminder that construction and roadwork are an ever-present problem in the city. For the average citizen, road construction means a more difficult commute because of a few closed roads. But to a small business owner, construction can mean the death of their enterprise.
Construction woes are seemingly the worst in the borough of Plateau-Mont-Royal, and business owners are completely fed up. But without help or support from municipal leaders, there's nothing they can really do about it.
The Plateau is dominated by roadwork right now, all of which has limited parking space and deterred pedestrian traffic. Rachel has been under construction for more than a year, and isn't yet finished. Saint Denis is constantly being renovated, and the roadwork currently being done on Laurier street could continue for years.
In the wake of far too many closures, including 5ième pêché, Les 3 Petits Bouchons, and Mexx, among many others, the current climate for business-owners in the Plateau is oppressive, at best. And many Montreal entrepreneurs housed in the Plateau fear they may be the next to go.
Pierre et Pierre, a restaurant located on Saint Denis just above Mont-Royal avenue, has been quite vocal in their displeasure with the borough's treatment of small businesses. Taking to Facebook, Pierre et Pierre voiced their concerns for their business and others like them on Saint-Denis and in the borough at-large, a status that received 542 likes and 131 shares.
Many other restaurants have similarly voiced their concerns. Only a few weeks ago, businesses along Rachel street put up symbolic "for sale" signs in protest of parking policies enforced by the leaders of the Plateau. Business owners on Laurier enacted the same protest in May, demonstrating just how difficult it's been to run an enterprise in the borough since.
Let's also not forget the fact that Montreal was ranked the worst city in Canada to run a business, a title gained largely for the reasons Plateau businesses are completely fed up.
Hoping to explain the struggles of a small business owner in the Plateau, Pierre et Pierre reached out to us directly, providing insight on just how difficult it is to run a successful business within a borough that doesn't support its entrepreneurs.
Opening its doors in 2014, Pierre et Pierre saw initial success thanks to the lively nature of the summer, only to see business dip in the winter. A common occurrence for almost all businesses in Montreal, the Pierre et Pierre management expected things to pick up come spring.
Unfortunately, the warm weather didn't bring good tidings to the restaurant, nor to businesses around them. A combination of roadwork, higher operation costs, and low attendance has created what could be a "domino effect," one that could altogether end the lively culture of the Plateau itself.
Making matters worse is the lack of aid from the borough. According to Pierre et Pierre, nothing has been put in place to allow cars or pedestrians to easily go through construction zones and enter businesses. And if you walk around the Plateau, you know that construction and road closures are found throughout the borough, which could mean potentially premature closures.
What's particularly frustrating is the fact that, while other businesses can receive help directly from the Quebec government in the form of funding, loans, and grants, restaurateurs are left with zero assistance, as pointed out by Pierre et Pierre. That's why it's so important for municipal leaders to ensure the success of such small businesses, which is altogether lacking in the Plateau.
Over a year ago, I wrote a piece on almost this exact same topic, citing how Saint-Denis street is becoming a literal "ghost town," and it seems like nothing has been done to improve the situation.
And besides business owners, who suffers most? Us, the consumers, the average Montrealer who goes out to eat and shop in the borough.
The amount of times I've had to detective my way into a restaurant entrance because the entire street has been blocked off/taken apart is beyond numerous. Even worse, some of our favourite establishments are threatened, meaning we could lose the best restaurants the Plateau has to offer.
If the borough continues to ignore the issues small businesses face, what plagues specific streets may extend to the entirety of the area, as the Plateau grows into a cultural ghost town, a pale image of what it used to be: a place where small businesses could thrive, not die.