Right now many Haligonians are afraid for the future of the heart of our city. “Barrington Street looks like a war zone!” some cry. “No new commercial buildings of note in two decade!” proclaim others. “There is not enough parking!” say still others.
There was even less parking than usual on Friday night, rather, there was fear, anger, miss-communication, and clear signs why the downtown we prize so highly is in danger of being undone by thoughtless bureaucracy and in-effective political leadership.
Around eight in the evening that night, a local journalist and media personality tweeted “HRM is helpfully shutting down downtown…duh.”
Moments later “Grafton st closed to parking as is Argyle from Duke to Prince. Helpful for Friday night business. No cops or politicos seem to know why” was added.
Was it the Bluenose Marathon? Why hadn’t local businesses been given notice? How long would it last? The Mayor did not know, nor did the Councillor for downtown, but over the next couple of hours the story slowly came out through emails, Twitter, and Facebook.
Some of the street closure had been planned a long time. While the marathon was the reason for the closure of Grafton, closures on and around Argyle were for the Jesse Stone film. The film production needed space for technical parking and filming on Friday, and to film on Saturday.
This kind of thing happens, but the restaurants, bars and shops on Blowers, Prince, Argyle and Grafton have said clearly to HRM, again and again – don’t shoot on the weekend, give adequate notice. Neither happened this weekend.
Why are these small business people so angry? “It means eliminating something like at least fifty prime parking spaces for our district. My business was off about $2,000 for a normal Friday night. Don’t know what happened to everyone else but I do know everyone is very pissed” said one irate bar owner.
Bars and restaurants pay rent seven days a week, but usually make the most revenue on the weekend nights. Losing parking and interfering with the normal function of the restaurant district on the weekend hurts a quarter of their monthly earnings.
Another restaurateur added “What is most frustrating in this situation is the lack of communication so that we could at least provide our clientele enough time to plan for parking or make different arrangements such as taxi cabs.”