Downtown Victoria businesses thankful as government workers return

WatchGovernment workers, who have been working from home for seven months now, are heading back to the office, at least part time. And as Julian Kolsut tells us, it's a welcome help for businesses, specifically restaurants, who rely on the lunch rush government workers bring.

A recent decision by the provincial government could be a boon for businesses in downtown Victoria.

Earlier this week, the province announced that some government employees would be returning to the office after working from home for the past seven months due to COVID-19 precautions.

It’s a move that Downtown Victoria Business Association says it’s a much-needed boost as many continue to struggle for customers.

“For many businesses, the nine to five office worker is their local economy,” explained Jeff Bray, the association’s executive director. “With many offices working at 20 per cent or less both in the public sector and private sector, it’s really been an impact for retailers and food and beverages. So this news for public servants coming back in significant numbers, I really welcome news for our retailers.”

A report by Vancity and the Canadian Urban Institute back in August found that Government Street in the downtown core relied heavily on office and government workers, along with tourism.

“We [have seen] a drop to our midday and early evening when the government workers were sent home,” said Lee Tanner, Frankie’s Modern Diner general manager. “We saw some back this week, and it’s nice to see some familiar faces. It allows us to recoup a part of the business we thought was lost for an extended period of time and it adds to the vibrancy of downtown.”

Unfortunately, the damage from both workers and tourism has already been done.

“We’ve definitely seen our colleagues shutting down for the fall and winter months to try to gauge the landscape,” said Tanner. “We’ve seen a couple of the tourist businesses leave the downtown core, it’s tough times for all of them.”

The DVBA says more must be to be done to support businesses.

“There are three key pieces to businesses surviving through the winter,” said Bray. “The extension of the wage subsidy program federally, the announcement of the new commercial rent program federally, and having public sector and office workers back.”

Bray says all that is left for Ottawa to put in place is the new commercial rent program.

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