About half of the businesses in downtown Kamloops reported losses during the COVID-19 pandemic and about half remain operating below their usual staffing capacity, according to the Kamloops Central Business Improvement Association.
On Tuesday (Oct. 20), KCBIA executive director Carl DeSantis provided an update to city council on its support for the downtown business community amid the pandemic.
DeSantis noted nearly two-dozen events and programs were cancelled in the spring, summer and fall — events that would typically draw crowds to the area and have positive spinoffs for businesses, some of which have closed.
Meanwhile, development in the area continues and other businesses have successfully pivoted.
DeSantis said the KCBIA has worked with businesses to transition online and promote pickup/take away services.
Questions remain, however, heading into colder months.
A patio program utilized by restaurants during the warmer months of the pandemic is set to expire at the end of October, with winter on the horizon. The program loosened restrictions to expand patios, allowing restaurants more space for patrons at a time when physical distancing is needed to prevent spread of the novel coronavirus.
DeSantis said not only did restaurants benefit from the outdoor patios, but so did all downtown businesses. He said the area became “welcoming” and “comfortable” and received positive feedback from customers.
“Each of the businesses that participated in this program advised us that the patios helped their business,” DeSantis said. “Some suggested that the patios significantly helped and that patios made a huge difference in their revenues.”
DeSantis noted discussions recently about adding patio heaters into the cooler months, but he has heard incurring additional expenses right now is “not the preferred option.”
He said the program was the right one for the right time.