Duckworth Street merchants fear missing out on boost from Water Street road closure — again

·3 min read
Eddy Kennedy/CBC
Eddy Kennedy/CBC

A section of Water Street will be closed for two weekends next month to accommodate a planned downtown holiday market, but a Duckworth Street business owner says his street is being left out — like it was for the summer's pedestrian mall.

Barry Bennett, owner of Vu Restaurant on Duckworth Street, said he was initially impressed by the idea of the holiday market, but he says there was a lack of consultation from city council and the same issues with Water Street's pedestrian mall showing up again for Duckworth Street business owners.

"It's going back to what happened in the summer time where Duckworth Street are not getting their fair chance of creating some extra revenue, especially going in now to the winter months," Bennett told CBC News this week. "We've got maybe four or five more good weeks of this year to make things happen."

At Monday's city council meeting, members approved closing Water Street from Adelaide Street to Prescott Street on Dec. 5-6 and Dec. 12-13 to accommodate the holiday market. The weekends were decided after consultation with Downtown St. John's.

Holiday music and pre-recorded Christmas messages will play on loudspeakers across Water and Duckworth streets, with mummers roaming the street between noon and 6 p.m. on Saturdays and noon and 5 p.m. on Sundays.

Paula Gale/CBC
Paula Gale/CBC

Monday's vote was 9-1 in favour of the closure, with the lone vote against coming from newly elected Coun. Shawn Skinner. He said he's heard from Duckworth Street business owners who fear they are being isolated in the same way as when the pedestrian mall was in place during the summer.Some business owners felt customers were using Duckworth Street as a parking lot and walking down to Water Street, tying up parking spaces and making it more difficult to patronize Duckworth merchants.

"I can tell you that from my interaction with businesses and people around this issue that there is no consensus," Skinner said. "There is grave concern from some of the businesses on Duckworth Street that they are being, again in their opinion, isolated and ignored."

Jeremy Eaton/CBC
Jeremy Eaton/CBC

'Just give us a fair shake'

Bennett said he's concerned the road closure on Water Street will siphon off customers from Duckworth, leaving business owners there to fend for themselves.

"The restaurants, the shop owners, everyone fends for themselves. Duckworth Street is going to turn into another parking lot for Water Street," he said.

"Just give us a fair shake of what's going on with Water and Duckworth. We just want an equal share of what's going on, be able to maybe close down Duckworth for one weekend and close down Water for maybe another weekend. Just maybe a trial run."

St. John's Mayor Danny Breen said business owners across downtown should work together on a solution that benefits as many people as possible, but acknowledged no decision would satisfy everyone.

"This is all give and take. We got to try to make this work for everyone," he said.

"But overall, this will bring more people downtown. And bringing more people downtown is good for everybody. Whether some will gain better than others, at the end of it the businesses will be better off by more people that we have in the downtown."

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