Downtown Barrie BIA welcomes any move by the province to reopen the economy

Head of BIA says businesses have cut, cut, cut to survive

The Ontario government’s announcement on Monday to gradually reopen the province was music to the ears of Kelly McKenna, executive director of the Downtown Barrie Business Association (BIA).

McKenna said businesses in the core are still surviving by their chinstraps.

“They’re struggling,” she said. “You know, they had to just completely lay off staff and shut down certain aspects of their business. They’ve been like cut, cut, cut everywhere they can just to survive.”

Despite the hardship, McKenna believes the survival rate of businesses downtown has been about 100 per cent. She said some businesses that have left downtown have set up shop somewhere else.

“I honestly haven’t heard of anybody going bankrupt.”

The government said it is returning to the regional, colour-coded system with the majority of public health units including Simcoe-Muskoka still under a stay-at-home order until Feb. 16, even though the state of emergency will expire province-wide on Tuesday.

The premier said a final decision will be made prior to Feb. 16 as to whether the stay-at-home order can be lifted for any particular region.

The colour-coded system was used prior to the lockdown on Dec. 26, and at the time, Simcoe-Muskoka was in the red zone, which limited bars and restaurants to a maximum 10 people, but still allowed in-person retail shopping.

McKenna said whatever plays out on Feb. 16, she wants people to continue to support local.

“There is no better community to support local than Barrie,” said McKenna.

“It’s the downtown, the Chamber, the real estate associations, and everyone has banded together so well, and I think that support is really felt by the businesses.”

McKenna said the announcement by the province shows the Ford government was listening to businesses by letting them open safely, and not just the big-box stores.

“As long as they are allowed to have some ability to have some customers, then I think they will make it.”