Businesses mixed on success of Kelowna's downtown street closure to foot traffic | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Businesses mixed on success of Kelowna's downtown street closure to foot traffic

Alicia Neill, manager of Mosaic Books, holds a book at the store's location on Bernard Avenue.
September 03, 2020 - 6:30 PM

Kelowna’s downtown businesses are on the fence about the closure of Bernard Avenue during the summer.

Alicia Neill, manager at Mosaic Books, said she would like to see the City of Kelowna communicate better with the businesses and Downtown Kelowna Association in the future, but doesn’t mind the street’s closure.

The road temporarily shut down to vehicle traffic starting June 29 to help businesses during COVID-19 and ensure residents and visitors were able to social distance. It reopens Sept. 8 to vehicle traffic.

READ MORE: Bernard Avenue in downtown Kelowna will be closed to traffic this summer

“I think people down here who are using it are positive about it and obviously we have a lot of customers who find it difficult to access the downtown… but it’s hard to compare it because we’ve never done this before and there is a pandemic,” Neill said.

Mosaic experienced a great June in terms of sales, which then dropped off when the Kelowna COVID-19 cluster was announced in early July. None of this she can relate to the street’s closure, she said.

The City also provided live music in certain locations along the street, which Neill said in another year that may have been fun, but when crowds disperse afterwards and go into the store, it becomes difficult to manage.

Galena Clancy, manager of Burnett's Florist & Gifts, said she was skeptical at first but was pleasantly surprised with how it turned out this summer.

“I would like to see it again if there’s something going on, otherwise it feels a bit like a waste of space,” Clancy said.

“Saturdays were great,” said her colleague Ellen Geber.

Clancy estimated that the store’s sales were roughly on par with last year’s, but would like to see more done along the street to attract people. Geber suggested having the farmer’s market along the street or even providing shaded picnic tables.

A couple uses the open road along Bernard Avenue to cycle.
A couple uses the open road along Bernard Avenue to cycle.

Mark Burley, executive director with Downtown Kelowna Association, said overall the summer has seen an 80 per cent increase in foot traffic along Bernard Avenue, as of Aug. 20.

The association conducted a study gathering feedback from businesses in July and will do another one this month, he said.

Overall, he said business reactions have been positive about the closure.

“There’s both good and bad points to the closure… most are really positive about it, we have a few who aren’t so sure and a few who don’t like how far it went,” he said, adding that the pandemic also plays a role in how it went this year.

With COVID-19, it’s difficult to tell if the increase in traffic can be directly attributed to the closure, he said.

“As we’ve gone through August, things have got busier down here, we’ve also got some good weather down here too,” he said.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Carli Berry or call 250-864-7494 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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