Navigating Downtown Montreal’s Pedestrian Maze

Last week I went downtown shopping for a gift for my wife’s birthday. As is my usual practice I had looked online first, found what I was looking for, determined that my local store had the product in stock, and made my way to the store to get it, pay for it, and get the hell out. Some would call this ‘male style shopping’, I just think it makes sense, particularly during what are, hopefully, the last dregs of a pandemic. I’m never one to spend any more time in a store than is absolutely necessary. I very much appreciate that some stores make it even easier to get in and get out by informing you online what aisle your item is in.

Being in the store was not a problem, as folks were well distanced and masks are still required. No, the problem was getting to the entrance of the store in the first place. The current mayor of Montreal is continuing with her plan to essentially turn a – if not the – main commercial downtown street into a pedestrian mall. (The election is in November, with any luck she will be ousted and this ridiculous concept can be scrapped before it has gone too far.) Add to this some major work just up the street on a light-rail transit station and the result is mayhem.

In an effort to rebuild their businesses, it is high time for Montreal’s hospitality industry to be … well … hospitable. All day happy hour prices?!?

Is it not bad enough that so many retail outlets along Ste. Catherine Street have succumbed to the pandemic? Shouldn’t we be focused on bending over backwards to encourage people to come back downtown? Why would consumers bother to go downtown, where they may or may not find one of the rapidly disappearing parking spots, only to have to navigate on foot a maze of closed and temporary sidewalks worthy of Hampton Court Palace to get to the store?

It’s almost as if a perfect storm of oddly-timed if not outright asinine decisions has transpired to push commercial establishments back down on their arses just as they struggle to get up off their COVID19-weary knees.

It gets worse: some downtown merchants recently floated the idea of going back to the pre-1989 era and not allow stores to open on Sundays. Is there any logic in suggesting that closing a commercial establishment would in some way help the recovery? Ideally the store owners should be lobbying the government for a change in the law that would allow them to keep their businesses open as long as they want in an effort to draw people.

Where are the ‘Welcome Back’ sales, ‘Post-Pandemic Savings’, and ‘It’s been tough, let’s help each other’ bargain bonanzas?

What is the reason cited for wanting to close on Sundays? A lack of workers. The staff is spread too thinly they claim. Did the pandemic take special aim at those who work in retail? Or did these people just realize that there are alternatives to minimum wage jobs? Forced to make career changes (or at least change jobs), many bar and restaurant staff, as well as retail workers are loath to return to the world of minimum wage.

No doubt restaurants and bars have paid a hefty price during the forced closure. But they can’t, upon reopening, hope to recover lost income on the backs of regular customers. In the same way that many employees realized during confinement that they could not just get by, but could in fact fare better, many regular patrons of Montreal’s numerous bars and restaurants found more dollars in their wallets when not visiting their usual watering holes.

In an attempt to rebuild their businesses, it is high time for Montreal’s hospitality industry to be … well … hospitable. All-day happy hour prices?!? Rather than going back to 1989 regulations, let’s go back to 1989 prices! That goes for retail as well. Where are the ‘Welcome Back’ sales, ‘Post-Pandemic Savings’, and ‘Thanks. It’s been tough, let’s help each other’ bargain bonanzas?

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