Winnipeg city officials are looking at ways to add more grocery stores downtown, but one grocer says he would only open shop there if he was provided with on-site police.

The city has been exploring options to fill the void left by the recent closure of the Extra Foods on Notre Dame Avenue and the Zellers on Portage Avenue and Vaughan Street, which had a grocery section.

The store closures have left downtown residents with few places in the neighbourhood where they can buy groceries.

Coun. Mike Paktaghan, who chairs the city's downtown development and heritage committee, says with more people living downtown and along Waterfront Drive, it's critical for residents to have access to grocery stores within walking distance.

"Some of the solutions could be a grocery store delivery service. It could be a door-to-door service. It could be supporting boutique grocery stores in strategic locations and also looking at, perhaps, sort of a superstore," he said Monday.

Paktaghan said CentreVenture, a downtown development corporation, has hired consultants and issued a request for proposals.

"I think we're hitting a critical point, a turning point, and it's got to come," he said.

Shoplifting a major concern

Munther Zeid, who owns several Food Fare stores across the city, said he was approached by a representative for the city, asking if he would open a location in the core area.

Zeid said he had thought about taking over the Extra Foods location, but he found out a major reason the store closed down was because of shoplifting.

"If the big guys can't handle that type of shoplifting, and they have deep pockets [as a] multinational conglomerate, how can we, the little guy, survive?" he said.

Zeid said if he was to consider opening a downtown grocery store, he would want incentives from the city, including on-site police officers to curb theft.

"I would try to hire two police officers, armed in uniform — not security guards, police officers," he said, adding that the officers should be able to make arrests on the spot.

Zeid added that if the city is serious about attracting new grocers downtown, it would also need to offer cash incentives and improve parking in the area.