Bernard Avenue is now open to pedestrians only until the Labour Day weekend to allow businesses to expand their patio areas into the parking areas along the street.
The patio expansion is to help promote physical distancing as people go out and about.
Twenty-two businesses signed on for the project, with several eateries and cafés setting up their expanded patios as soon as the barricades went up on June 29.
But a Bernard Avenue shop owner said the closure doesn’t benefit every business along the city’s main drag.
Chantal Couture owns Funktional, a jewelry and home goods store, and Frock & Fellow, a consignment shop. She said the patio expansion initiative was primarily aimed at restaurants in the area.
“I think it was primarily to increase capacity for restaurants and then offered to us merchants to also increase our capacity but the truth is, it’s not realistic,” she said.
“I can’t put clothes on the street and then still have people come and use the fitting rooms so my capacity isn’t actually being broadened.”
Couture added setting up valuable and fragile items out on the street also adds work on her already limited staff. She said the street’s closure to vehicles also poses some difficulties when she restocks both her stores.
“Big transport trucks coming don’t have easy access to the back alley. I used to get my vendors onto Bernard to supply us, now we’re trying to make alternate arrangements. Only time will tell how effective that’s going to be and I’m optimistic and I certainly hope it doesn’t dampen our potential revenue for the summer,” Couture said.
She added that she would’ve appreciated some collaboration regarding the street’s closure.
“In 2013, Bernard was closed for 22 months for construction and all of us were included in how we’re going to move through this. We got to have a vote and a say.”
The City of Kelowna’s property management manager JoAnne Adamson said when staff were looking at an economic recovery program for the businesses in the area, they consulted with the Downtown Kelowna Association’s board of directors.
“They’re our conduit to the business community. So it wasn’t a one-on-one consultation with specific businesses, but more through the association itself. The initiative had to go fairly fast in terms of coming up with a program, so staff felt that was the appropriate means of business consultation,” she said.
Adamson added that the expanded space for pedestrians will benefit all the businesses in the area, including stores like Couture’s.
“Our goal is to increase the pedestrian usage and therefore have more eyes and people on the street feeling comfortable to stroll up and down and to visit the businesses and to be able to experience the heart of downtown in a socially distanced and compliant manner.”