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Downtown Vancouver business lobby wants clarification for B.C.'s optimistic post-COVID timeline

Last Updated Mar 6, 2021 at 2:46 pm PDT

FILE: A survey of 1,401 member-businesses from groups including the BC Chamber of Commerce, Greater Vancouver Board of Trade and Business Council of B.C., reveals that owners want a bold, long-term recovery plan. A woman paints a mural on the boarded up windows of a closed Gastown business in downtown Vancouver, on Sunday, April 19, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — The business lobby in downtown Vancouver still wants clarification about comments B.C.’s top doctor made this week, suggesting a return to our “new normal” could be in the summer — rather than the fall.

Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association chief Charles Gauthier says Dr. Bonnie Henry’s news is exciting, given the prospect of a summer restart, but Gauthier says he’s been inundated with phone calls asking about details.

“Certainly [Thursday] was probably the best news that we’ve all heard in 2021, to date,” he says. “But the devils in the details. We would want to know what if 60 per cent of the British Columbians were vaccinated by the end of April, does that change any of the current restrictions in regards to being able to go diving in and getting maybe alcohol service beyond 10:00 p.m.? Does it change capacity in the restaurants? Does it provide more of an opportunity for live theatre and live music to maybe be ready to operate sometime in August or September?”

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Gauthier says his association has been waiting for the heads up to start communicating to clients about a return-to-work, post-COVID plan.

“Each day counts, and that’s why it’s really important for us to get a little bit clearer direction and more details,” he says.

While the association understands the province’s assumptions might not go according to plan, conceding the pandemic continues to be unpredictable, Gauthier says “we need to know what are the next few miles going to look like.”

A new calculation made by the DVBIA has found significant daily lost revenues due to a lack of full downtown employment.

“It works out to about $2 million a day of lost revenue for restaurants, retail, people going out for lunch, doing some shopping before after and during the lunch hours. So that’s the economic hit, that’s a conservative number that we’ve calculated based on the downtown workforce population and numbers that we got from Statistics Canada,” Gauthier explains.

But Gauthier adds the figures do not include the loss of tourism, the cruise ship season, conventions and meetings.

“I’m sure that it’s much deeper than $2 million.”

Gauthier says in hopes for a detailed roadmap, he will be waiting for B.C.’s Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry’s update, which is expected sometime mid-March.

Meanwhile, to try to draw people back into the core the association is turning to art by lighting up the east side of Hotel Vancouver with video art projections starting Saturday.

Gauthier says while they want to draw attention to downtown, they also don’t want the display to become a super-spreader event.

The show runs from 6:00 to 10:00 starting Saturday and will run through this coming Friday.

Gauthier explains each show will be approximately 15 minutes long with 30-minute breaks between each show and he says “the best spot to view it is the North Plaza of the Vancouver Art Gallery.

The show will also be recorded to allow people who are not working or from the Vancouver Coastal Health region to view the show without travelling into the downtown core.