Kamloops Mayor Ken Christian said he has heard of the pain felt by the tourism industry, but noted some businesses — landscaping, pool and hot tub and those selling bicycles, for example — are doing well, as residents defer funds from their annual holiday plans to stay home.
Christian noted the initiative to allow businesses to expand patios and outdoor retail space is seeing more of an uptick — with five applications by his count. In addition to The Vic downtown, KTW has spotted Peter’s Pasta, Pizza Pi and FreshSlice Pizza also expanding their patios.
Another pandemic-related response floated in other B.C. communities is allowing for drinking alcohol on beaches. Christian said he has not heard requests for that in Kamloops, calling it more of an urban phenomenon, in places with high populations.
“I haven’t seen it here,” he said. “Of course, if you were to do that, you then take away business from people who are running patios, that sort of thing. It’s a balancing act. It’s not about just going and partying on the beach."
Christian said another issue is alcohol consumption and resulting behaviours, noting there is a reason alcohol is generally served in a fenced-in area at public events.
"When you start to open up wide spaces for that, sometimes bad things happen," he said.
Meanwhile, an update on the city’s financial situation is expected next month.
Christian said staff are being recalled, but it is nothing outside of the city’s regular seasonal employment changes. Christian said he is concerned about the impacts of the pandemic on subsequent budget cycles into 2022. He also said he worries about the assessment of commercial properties, specifically if they become vacant, as more people continue working from home.
“A lot of companies are saying, ‘Hey, that works,’” Christian said. “We really miss the 400 employees next door at the British Columbia Lottery Corporation that generally filter into downtown every lunch hour and every coffee break. … That kind of thing is happening in law offices, it’s happening in insurance offices all over the place. You’re starting to see a transition in terms of that work-from-home initiative that really will have an impact on those sectors who service those workers, both in terms of hospitality meals, after-work drinks, those types of things, but also the space that they’re renting on a per-square foot basis in commercial, high-rise developments. They may decide they can shrink their footprint or they don’t need as much space.”