Blackfish Apparel is one of the businesses on the 400-block of Bernard Avenue that has been struggling. (Twila Amato - Black Press Media)

Some downtown Kelowna businesses struggling

Some downtown Kelowna businesses are still struggling, despite the city’s efforts in closing Bernard Avenue to vehicles to promote physical distancing and encourage more people to come to the area and support local.

Blackfish Apparel owner Chris Murphy is making her concerns public. When the closure first began on June 29, she said she was optimistic.

“But now having seen what’s happening, not anymore. Unfortunately, we don’t have a lot of the restaurants and the pubs, which is drawing people to the areas,” she said.

“We don’t have a lot of employees to be putting our merchandise on the street. We can’t be putting our clothing on the street because it’ll get stolen… so for us, it’s backfired.”

Murphy said she used to have three employees but had to let them go. Currently, she said she’s barely making enough to keep the store afloat and can’t afford to take wages for herself.

She said she knows closing off Bernard Avenue has been beneficial for the restaurants and several other businesses, especially the ones close to the waterfront as there is more foot traffic there, but around the 400- and 500-block where she is, it hasn’t helped her business.

“I think our two blocks need to be opened up again, let’s get the people parking here again. Let’s get those people out of their cars and into the businesses here.”

Previously, Black Press Media has spoken to Funktional and Frock and Fellow owner Chantal Couture about how closing off the main drag is going to affect retailers like her.

“I think it was primarily to increase capacity fo restaurants and then offered to us merchants to also increase our capacity but the truth is, it’s not realistic,” she said.

Couture said it wasn’t worth putting fragile merchandise out on the sidewalk as items could break or get stolen, as well as simply not having enough staff members to man the outdoor setup.

Downtown Kelowna Association executive director Mark Burley said he knows about the issue.

“We have some businesses who are upset with the closure… and those include some in the 400 and 500 blocks. The city is in contact with us about (those blocks) and we’ve been back and forth and trying to come up with some solutions,” he said.

He said some of the ideas they’ve talked about include bringing picnic tables down to the two blocks to increase foot traffic in the area, as well as going ahead with Animate Bernard, an initiative that will bring entertainment in the area, starting this weekend.

READ: Bernard Avenue patio expansion ‘unrealistic’ for non-restaurant owners: retailer

READ: Pedestrian numbers skyrocket on car free Bernard Avenue

Twila Amato
Video journalist, Black Press Okanagan
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