Stay-at-home order another hit to Sudbury businesses

·4 min read

Now more than a year into the pandemic, this latest government lockdown has businesses wondering how much more they can take. The stay-at-home order has restrictions we have seen before, but many hoped we would never see again.

Weathering another 28 days, is it possible?

Businesses are back to curbside delivery, some have closed doors, others are weighing options.

“Many are still in shock,” said Cora DeMarco, chair of the board of directors for the Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce. “We recognize restrictions are here to save lives.”

“What are our members saying? They are disappointed with this latest action. Ultimately, we all want to see a safe and sustainable reopening of Ontario’s economy, but this is coming at a devastating cost to businesses.” DeMarco says the Ontario Chamber echoes similar concerns.

DeMarco outlines how the chamber has been and is continuing to help their members.

“There are a multitude of programs to access. Our staff are staying on top of what is out there. The first stop is the COVID Support portal. Then there are small business grants, the Shop Sudbury Campaign, and applications for loans. Linking them with appropriate agencies is so important. We will walk them through the steps.”

No one is actually in the offices on Elm Street, but Demarco assures members that “just because we are not here in the offices doesn’t mean they can’t call on us. We want members to understand the support and resources that are available to them. Businesses just need to reach out to us and say ‘this is my problem, this is what I am experiencing’. We’ve got their back.”

In the heart of downtown, Sudbury Elm Place “was slightly ahead of the curve,” states Robert Green, property manager for Vista Hospitality. “We have been doing screening at the controlled entrances – standard questions and temperature taking – for some time. This reconfigured how we used our security personnel for simple things like mask enforcement.

"As with the stay-at-home order, we have been working with our retailers through each of the colour-coded zones as they are announced. Those that have direct access from the outside - like the grocery store and Dollarama - have a different set of conditions.”

Isn’t the yo-yo of open then closing wearing on Elm Places’ tenants?

“Yes, that is true, and some are finding this deeply chaotic. But we are helping inform and update including raising awareness of rental support programs. I think this is part of our responsibility, too. We have offices, engineering companies, entrepreneurs. There are so many different segments of Sudbury that use and need the services of Elm Place.”

Green talked of a renaissance once vaccines quench rising numbers. “I truly believe, on the horizon, things will improve.”

Kyle Marcus, managing director of Downtown Sudbury, underscores that the urban core will survive.

“While the current lockdown restrictions present obvious challenges to our members in terms of providing their goods and services to the community, as well as providing economic stability for themselves, it has also allowed their true, amazing and uplifting entrepreneurial spirit to shine through.”

He continued: “We have incredible vendors, makers, service providers and artisans in our downtown community that have adapted almost flawlessly to past restrictions by providing curbside pickup and delivery of their products and finding ways to make an abundance out of a little.

"I personally could not be more proud of how our community has adapted to continue to support themselves while continually helping those around them and I’m sure regardless of any obstacles presented by COVID-19 and our current lockdown scenario that we will continue to see passion and innovation from all of our members.”

Downtowns are a hub for the hospitality industry. Veronica Desjardins, manager of two Elgin Street eateries, was thinking as spring arrived and it was time to take out the chairs and tables. That was just such a short time ago.

“Like all restaurants in our community, this year has been a series of opening and closing for both of our businesses; it's honestly rather devastating.”

They had just installed added features to bring both warmth and still respect social distancing.

“Unfortunately, we reopened our patio just in time to close it again due to current restrictions, but we intend to open t back up as always when we are permitted to. We have added fire tables and heaters to the patio. All tables are spaced six feet apart. We actually had a long waitlist when we were open.”

“Over the past year, we have had to invest more money and resources ... in order to accommodate the rapidly changing government orders while maintaining the environment that the Laughing Buddha and Townehouse Tavern have always offered.”

Desjardins said all this has ripples through the economy. “We are so fortunate for our supportive staff, who have tried to remain positive and hopeful, even in the face of repeated layoffs. This industry is unbelievably vulnerable right now, but we all want what's best for our community, and that starts with health. Our team looks forward to when we can open our patios back up again.”

The Local Journalism Initiative is made possible through funding from the federal government.

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Twitter: @SudburyStar

Hugh Kruzel, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Sudbury Star