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Granville Island businesses continue to struggle with lack of tourists, government aid

Last Updated Apr 11, 2021 at 6:57 pm PDT

(Photo Courtesy Granville Island)

Most Granville Island businesses are bringing in between three and 30 per cent of pre-pandemic revenue

David McCann says limits on accessing funding from government compound the struggles of business owners, operators

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — The opening of a massive, youth arts education centre on Granville Island Saturday may not be enough to breathe life back into the struggling tourist destination, according to a business leader.

While the prospect of hundreds of students flocking daily to the Arts Umbrella programs does have property manager David McCann excited, he says most businesses are bringing in between three and 30 per cent of pre-pandemic revenue.

Only two out of 15 are bringing in more than 50 per cent.

“One of them I understand which is Roger’s Chocolates because you know people are indulging themselves, and the other one is DragonSpace I guess partly because people are buying puzzles and stuff for kids,” he says.

“We’re all suffering down here. I think the next three to four months is absolutely critical. I think if some more stores start to close it’ll become a flood.


And he says there’s no government aid on the horizon. Granville Island is administered by the federal government, with Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) acting as the defacto landlord.

“CMHC unfortunately has got their hands shackled by federal government. They’re caught up in a bureaucratic process that most commercial landlords aren’t. They can’t borrow money. The government’s not giving them any money for capital projects. So every time a building needs major work, they can’t get the money to do it,” he explains, adding Ottawa has shown no willingness to provide any leasing benefits to try to entice more businesses to open up.

“The cabinet minister has been very clear, we’re not giving you any capital money. For a commercial landlord to have those kinds of financial constraints is insane.”

Although the future is uncertain, McCann is confident in one thing.

“The whole island could die and Arts Umbrella would still be here, because people are having kids, and they want they want them to get that kind of arts education. Right now, it’s one of the few bright lights down here.”