Heard this before? Merchants struggle as Laurier Ave. undergoes overhaul

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Heard this before? Merchants struggle as Laurier Ave. undergoes overhaul

With sales down because of construction on Laurier Avenue, merchants were anxiously awaiting Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante's plan to provide financial support to get them through a lean summer.​

The details were announced Wednesday.

Businesses on Laurier say revenue is down about 30 per cent.

"The construction is wild around here," Tin Nguyen, the manager of restaurant Mikado Laurier, said prior to the announcement.

"We can't sit anyone in the front."

He said when construction crews hit the water pipes, the 30-year-old restaurant had to go buy bottled water for customers.

"We pay like, $60,000 tax every year and, at the end of the day, we're losing money," he said.

He said pedestrian traffic is down and the restaurant is seeing a lot of cancelled reservations.

The western section of Laurier Avenue is expected to remain under construction until the fall of 2018 as crews update the sewer system.

Grocer Farouk Dad, who owns Gourmet Laurier, agreed that compensation would help get them through the downturn in business.

He said the sidewalk in front of his store is obstructed and the usual clients who travel to his store from the west are being forced to take awkward detours.

He is optimistic that the city will come through with a plan that helps merchants.

"Because now they understand the impact that this construction is having on the street," he said, pointing to projects on St-Laurent Boulevard and Bishop Street that had a significant effect on businesses.

23 recommendations

The city has to show it has learned something, said Guy Cormier, the head of an advisory committee to the city's commercial development plan.

The committee unveiled its own plan Monday, complete with 23 recommendations on how to Montreal can help support businesses.

Cormier said a compensation plan should be established before construction starts so merchants can use it to promote their business and curb losses. 

"They need to have disbursement during the project, not five years after the project is over. It won't help," Cormier said.

The plan focuses on six categories:

- Improving how construction projects are managed.

- Lightening merchants' tax burden.

- Simplifying regulations and make it easier to submit applications.

- Making more services for businesses available online.

- Improving consumer experience.

- Positioning Montreal as a top shopping destination.

Under the construction category, the committee recommends speeding up work on construction sites, adopting a compensation program and including clauses to ensure work is completed in time.

Cormier also said other improvements can be enacted — like having crews move their equipment off the street when they're not working so that restaurants can still offer a terrace with a nice view.