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Point Roberts' only grocery store on verge of closure amid ongoing border restrictions

Last Updated Jun 21, 2021 at 6:34 pm PDT

FILE - Point Roberts marina is seen here from the NEWS 1130 Air Patrol in the summer of 2019. (Source: Riley Phillips/NEWS 1130)
Summary

The owner of the Point Roberts Marketplace says she can only stay open until July 15 unless Canadians are allowed back

The grocery store in Point Roberts has lost 90 per cent of its business amid the COVID-19-related border closure

POINT ROBERTS (NEWS 1130) — Point Roberts could lose its only grocery store if restrictions at the Canada-U.S. border remain in place, banning non-essential travel from B.C.

Ali Hayton owns Point Roberts Marketplace and says unless Canadians can start coming back across the border — they’ll have to close by July 15.

“With the border closure, we’ve just been having to basically subsidize with our own money, and we’re just not doing enough business to keep it running,” she says.

“We’ve been trying to just limp along for as long as we could.”

On Friday, the feds announced the border closure has been extended until July 21. That news was a disappointment for Hayton, who had hoped for either an exemption for the Washington state community, or an earlier reopening.

“With no end in sight, I really can’t keep subsidizing it personally, I would need some help –either from our government, state, local, federal — or I need our border open. I need one of the two I can’t keep doing it by myself,” she says.

The store has already laid off five workers, and scaled back the number of hours it is open. She doesn’t want to have to let go of the remaining 10 workers who rely on their jobs for both income and health benefits.

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Hayton describes her store as “critical infrastructure,” noting if she has to shut the doors there will be no local option for food shopping.

“If we close down there is no fresh food for any of the residents in Point Roberts. That creates such a hardship for a lot of the people that live there,” she explains, adding people will either have to be allowed to cross into Canada to shop or travel all the way to Bellingham.

In a pre-pandemic summer, Hayton says the store would serve 8,000 customers a week. Since the border has been closed, she is seeing about 800.

“The losses have been huge,” she says.

Point Roberts is home to less than 1,000 residents, the vast majority of whom have been vaccinated. The majority of real estate is owned by Canadians.

Hayton doesn’t understand why the town has not been granted an exemption.

“there’s no public health threat. That’s what’s so frustrating 85 per cent of people in point Roberts are vaccinated. Our fire chief is willing and ready and able to vaccinate any Canadian that comes down and needs their vaccinations, so there’s no public health threat whatsoever,” she says.

“There has to be somebody that can do something because as of now, nothing has been done. It’s not just my business, if my business is suffering and people have to eat I mean think about the gas stations and the parcel pickups and the little restaurants.”

With files from Tarnjit Parmar