Economy Shoe Shop sold as ex-owner says construction 'killed' his bar

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Economy Shoe Shop sold as ex-owner says construction 'killed' his bar

The owner of Halifax's Economy Shoe Shop has sold the bar, saying he was fed up with downtown construction.

Victor Syperek said he sold the business to the owners of the neighbouring bar, the Toothy Moose. He said he made the decision because of the ongoing work on the Nova Centre — which he blamed for "killing" his business — and in light of the city's plans to cancel the 2017 patio season on Argyle Street to redo the streetscape.

"I've just sold the Economy Shoe Shop because I can't go through another two years of what they've done to me for the last four," he told the CBC's Bob Murphy on Mainstreet Friday. "I've been 22 years there and I'm done. Thanks very much, city of Halifax."

He said he's lost "a couple of million dollars" and blamed it on downtown construction. He said the patio season was an "enormous" part of his business since he first installed it 22 years ago.

"I don't have the money to hang on for another two years," he said. "It's going to be amazing in a few years, I think. It won't be the cool little downtown that we had. It's going to be a corporate free-for-all."

'Final push stage of labour'

Wendy Friedman, owner of Biscuit General Store on Argyle Street, agreed the construction has hampered business, but expressed enthusiasm for the upgrades.

"I'm thrilled the streetscaping is finally happening. We've been waiting many years for this," she said. "I do wish the timing had been handled a little bit better."

She said the design is "beautiful" and will deliver a better area.

"I feel like it's the final push stage of labour. We've been pregnant and in labour on Argyle Street for a long time, trying to get through the construction disaster that's been going on in downtown Halifax," she said.

She said the end result will be a "beautiful baby" to share with the city.

'Shocking' disruption of businesses

Lil MacPherson, co-owner of the Wooden Monkey, has hired a lawyer to ask the province's Utility and Review Board to compensate her business for more than $500,000 in losses. She's also part of a threatened class-action lawsuit over the matter.

She said the Wooden Monkey didn't open its patio last year because of the construction.

"It's disturbing. It's really quite shocking — the 17 weeks. We're not just talking about patios, we're talking about the whole street being ripped up," she said.

MacPherson said the municipality should have done the work at a different time of year.

Halifax spokeswoman Tiffany Chase said Thursday that parts of the project can only be done during the summer.

"We believe that the overall benefit that is going to be seen in this significant investment into this already exciting area of downtown Halifax … is going to far outweigh the short-term pain of the construction," she said Thursday.

Syperek, who will now focus fully on his new venture, the Local on Gottingen Street, said he's glad he won't be dealing with the downtown construction anymore.

"Progress has to happen, but it's the way they do it," said Syperek. "It's just unconscionable. The city is just going, 'Screw you,' I think."