More than online likes needed to help downtown businesses rebound

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As police cleared their streets of trucks and often belligerent people protesting pandemic health measures, businesses still face challenges when it comes to attracting customers who don’t know what to expect. wait in a heavily guarded “red zone”.

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Although North & Navy, the fine-dining Italian restaurant on Nepean Street, has lost tens of thousands of dollars due to the Freedom Convoy’s occupation of downtown Ottawa, co-owner and chef Adam Vettorel is donating a few meals strangers at home.

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One of many businesses in the downtown blocks closest to Parliament Hill, North & Navy wants to provide a handful of residents who have resisted the occupiers with fine dining.

As the restaurant announced on Twitter on Monday, its potential new VIPs include Zexi Li, lead plaintiff in the $306 million class action lawsuit against the occupiers, and people challenging truckers in viral videos such as the aptly dubbed ” Pot and Ladle Man”, “Blue Jacket Guy” and the “Three Grannies”.

There were only a few people who really stood out and made us smile, said something we wanted to say or did something we would have done,” said Vettorel, a downtown resident who himself endured taunts and curses from protesters for wearing a mask outside.

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“We wanted to pay it forward and thank them,” he said.

Viewers online celebrated the restaurant’s generous offer, but it will take more than likes to help North & Navy and neighboring businesses rebound when they reopen.

As police cleared their streets of trucks and often belligerent people protesting pandemic health measures, businesses still face challenges when it comes to attracting customers who don’t know what to expect. wait in a heavily guarded ‘red zone’.

Kevin Martin, owner of Stroked Ego, said on Tuesday he hoped to open his Bank Street menswear store on Thursday or Friday.

“There’s really no one here right now. It is not worth opening if there is no one here. There is no point in paying staff to twiddle their thumbs,” he said.

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Stroked Ego was closed for the duration of the three-week occupation, with its only income coming from a few online sales, Martin said, adding that he kept his store closed because he didn’t want to put workers on the line. danger.

“I’m six-three and I bring a dog to work, and it’s a Rottweiler cross,” Martin said. “If I’m still feeling a bit uncomfortable, I wouldn’t want a member of my staff to come down.”

He said the red zone police checkpoints were just a small inconvenience on Tuesday.

The Ottawa Police Service tweeted, “As businesses in the Byward Market and Downtown reopen, you will continue to see an increased police presence in these areas. Our presence is to keep residents safe and support reopenings.

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On Monday and Tuesday, police also tweeted about reducing the size of the red zone, which Tuesday included downtown between Parliament Hill and Laurier Avenue. A tweet noted that Sparks Street was open to pedestrians and added, “We encourage you to support local businesses impacted by the unlawful assembly.”

Ryan Moleiro, owner of Paradise Poke, opened his restaurant for dinner on Tuesday, allowing customers to eat his raw fish meals on site for the first time since the pandemic began.

“He certainly feels safe,” Moleiro said. He said there were far fewer police downtown on Tuesday compared to Saturday, when he made his way quickly to his business while it was still jammed with trucks to extract 20 pounds of salmon before that it does not go wrong.

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Moleiro compared the stress of the occupation to the feeling he had when the COVID-19 pandemic started in March 2020.

It was the same in the sense that there was serious uncertainty as to what the business was going to look like, whether the business was going to survive this and how safe my staff would be,” he said. declared.

He said that when Paradise Poke opened on Monday after the first weekend of the protest, he could not cope with the aggression from protesters entering the store.

“We quickly saw that these people were not our customers. The safety of our personnel was seriously threatened. People came in without masks, yelling at staff, insulting them, telling them they were government slaves,” Moleiro said. “Then we closed for 10 days.”

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Like North & Navy, Mazarine, the nearby Middle Eastern brunch restaurant, is due to open on Wednesday.

“We do this very carefully,” said co-owner and chef Yesmine El-Ayoubi.

His business is on Kent Street, which Vettorel says is where he met”the really scary dudes” of the occupation compared to its Wellington Street revelers.

El-Ayoubi had the menace outside her door in mind when she said, “If anything happens, we’re okay with closing if it gets dangerous.”

Ryan Moleiro and Tyler Scherer are the owners of Paradise Poke on Bank Street.
Ryan Moleiro and Tyler Scherer are the owners of Paradise Poke on Bank Street. Photo by Tony Caldwell /Postmedia

The owner of a Bank Street service business that has remained open said her business was only a third of normal this month. Even on Tuesday, there were more than a dozen cancellations because customers felt downtown was inaccessible.

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The business owner, who will not be identified for fear of reprisals from ‘Freedom Convoy’ supporters, said the occupation had made her worry about the threat to democracy and civil society Canadian.

“I grew up in Lebanon. I know how things start,” she said.

Paradise Poke’s Moleiro said he remains frustrated in the aftermath of the occupation. “I can’t help but think that all levels of government have let us down. All businesses here were pretty much abandoned for three weeks,” he said.

The federal government on Saturday announced a $20 million fund to pay up to $10,000 to downtown businesses affected by the occupation. Details on eligibility and application are forthcoming.

Moleiro and Vettorel were pleased with the news from the fund, but said that if they received payment from it, it would only cover a fraction of the occupation’s losses.

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  1. Tamara Lich, pictured at a press conference on Thursday, is a key Freedom Convoy organizer.

    Protest organizer Tamara Lich felt she was at risk of reoffending and was denied bail in Ottawa

  2. Police officers from all different forces across the country have come together to try to bring the

    DND overwhelmed with phone calls asking Canadian Forces to protect Ottawa protesters from police

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