The City of Moncton has reversed its decision to allow only one-way traffic on a portion of Main Street after a growing chorus of businesses denounced the move, including some that had originally supported it.
The city made the decision in June to make the street one way to allow pubs and restaurants to extend patios, to add bike lanes and to increase physical distancing.
This was meant to bring more people into the downtown, but it didn't.
Council decided to reverse course after receiving a petition from Downtown Moncton Inc. signed by 26 businesses asking for the project to end.
"After a seven-week trial, we now have a petition signed by 26 downtown businesses on Main Street who want to avoid any further business losses and are asking for quick action," Anne Poirier Basque, executive director of Downtown Moncton, wrote in a letter to the city.
"The partial closure of Main Street is having an extremely negative impact on their establishments and on the overall viability of our downtown core."
In a report presented to council, city staff said the project has not appeared to have the intended effect.
"As much of the planning for this initiative was completed during May and early June 2020, a great deal about return to business or reopening of business was still unknown," said a report prepared by staff.
"At this time, few businesses have expanded patios or sidewalk cafés into Main Street. Many have expanded on the sidewalk in an east-west configuration."
Steve Gallagher, the owner of the Old Triangle Irish Alehouse, originally supported the move to one-way traffic, and while he appreciates the city trying, he now thinks it was a mistake.
"It's not what I envisioned, but I'm not going to play Monday morning quarterback and criticize the city," said Gallagher.
"The city tried."
Gallagher was able to expand his patio to the east of his businesses, so never had to expand farther into the street.
Ray Roberge, the general manager of the Delta Beausejour, said the one-way traffic made it difficult for people coming into the hotel and he's happy to see the about-face from the city.
"My whole point was if they can't get downtown, if accessing downtown is going to be difficult, then it's going to hurt everyone downtown," said Roberge.
"So I was never in favour of it."
Didn't shut down street
Gallagher was in favour of shutting down all of Main Street to vehicle traffic back in the spring but is happy that suggestion was never acted upon.
He said he didn't consider two things: fewer people are working downtown during the pandemic and tourism is down.
"It would probably look like a ghost town if in fact we did close down the three blocks entirely," said Gallagher.
Roberge said the city could get more patio space, without hurting businesses, it it closed down a couple of side streets.
"Main Street is too big to shut down," he said. "Do one of the side streets. That's my recommendation."