The executive director of the ByWard Market BIA suggests one of the biggest challenges facing business owners during the COVID-19 pandemic is finding employees to work.
“If you walk around the area, you’re probably going to see Help Wanted signs almost everywhere,” said Jasna Jennings, during an interview with Newstalk 580 CFRA’s “The Goods with Dahlia Kurtz.”
“They have become just about every hat that there was in the organization, they are now wearing it. So, they are running their shop all day long and doing deliveries at night. I see owners and general managers taking on wait shifts and bartending behind the bar.”
Ottawa entered Stage 2 of Ontario’s COVID-19 reopening plan on June 12, allowing bar and restaurant patios to reopen and malls to open.
Jennings speculates the Canada Emergency Response Benefit is creating challenges for businesses looking for new employees.
“People are realizing, a lot of them part-time workers, that they’re actually better off financially to stay on CERB then to go back to work. So it’s been really challenging,” said Jennings about business owners looking for employees. .
“The extension has been welcome news and difficult news all at the same time. At a time where normally they would be staffed with university students, they’re struggling; they’re struggling to fill those spaces.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Tuesday the Canada Emergency Response Benefit would be extended another eight weeks.
Jennings says she is concerned many business owners in the ByWard Market may be burning out.
“Between the anxiety of COVID and reduced foot traffic and reduced sales, to be trying to manage all of it, plus no staff to really back you up is a real challenge right now.”
Remember your favourite ByWard Market spot
The executive director of the ByWard Market BIA is hoping you will remember your favourite coffee shop, store or restaurant in downtown Ottawa as the COVID-19 restrictions are relaxed.
“This downtown core it needs, needs people,” said Jennings on Saturday.
“We need people to come down. You need to go and visit your favourite coffee shop and tell them ‘Hey I still remember you and I miss my favourite coffee and I need to come down and have my favourite coffee.’ Or your favourite restaurant or your favourite boutique.”
Jennings adds that even though many offices remain closed, “these places are still here, they’re open and they’re waiting and dying for customers to come down.”
Jennings notes thousands of office workers, university students and tourists are not in the ByWard Market and downtown daily due to the COVID-19 restrictions.
“We have a downtown core right now that’s pretty much a vacuum,” said Jennings.
“The real struggle right now is just to get people to remember that there’s all these businesses that they used to visit every day.”