Businesses bracing for 6-week O'Connor Street closure

Businesses along a stretch of O'Connor Street are bracing for a six-week road closure, saying they'll be hit financially.

'These are things that make businesses hurt,' says Mamma Teresa Ristorante owner

Amro Mohamed, manager at Shawarma Andalos on O'Connor Street, says he expects to lose up to a quarter of his clients while repair work is underway. (Marc-André Cossette/CBC)

Businesses on O'Connor Street are bracing for a financial hit as repair work shuts down part of the downtown artery for the next six weeks.

Starting today, O'Connor Street will be closed to vehicles from Laurier Avenue W. to Somerset Street W. until Friday, March 2.

In a release, the City of Ottawa said the closure was necessary to allow Bell Canada crews to repair manholes where the street intersects with Gloucester, Nepean, Lisgar and Cooper streets.

Businesses along that stretch say the impact could be devastating.

"It's going to destroy our business," said Fortunato Calabro, owner of Tosca Ristorante, located at the northern edge of the construction zone.

O'Connor Street will be closed to vehicles for six weeks starting Monday to allow for manhole repair work. (Marc-André Cossette/CBC)

While Calabro expects his daytime clients will still find their way to his restaurant, he worries the road closure will dissuade potential customers from coming downtown in the evening.

Poor timing

Still coming to grips with Ontario's minimum wage hike, Calabro said the timing of the construction work is also unfortunate.

"It doesn't help us," he said. "We have to struggle and try to make it through."

Fortunato Calabro, owner of Tosca Ristorante on O'Connor Street, says he's disappointed businesses like his weren't consulted ahead of the repair work. (Marc-André Cossette/CBC)

It's much the same story just across the street at Shawarma Andalos, where manager Amro Mohamed said the winter slowdown has already made things hard enough.

"It's minus 10 and we don't have any business," said Mohamed, who expects to lose about 25 per cent of his clients due to reduced foot traffic in the area. "It's going to be very bad for the business."

Mohamed said he understands the work may be needed, but he would have liked for Bell Canada and the City of Ottawa to consult with local businesses before issuing notice.

"They take the decision right away, without anything," he said. "They don't care about any other people."

Calls for alternatives

In a statement to CBC, a Bell Canada spokesperson said the closure will allow the company "to complete the necessary construction in a much compressed timeframe."

But at the southern end of the construction zone, Mamma Teresa Ristorante owner Walter Moreschi wonders why it was deemed necessary to close both lanes rather than just one.

"These are not things that make businesses prosper. These are things that make businesses hurt," he said. "It doesn't matter what we say or what we do."

With restaurant margins notoriously thin, Moreschi said, the roadwork is just one more hit to his business.

Mamma Teresa Ristorante owner Walter Moreschi says the stretch of O'Connor Street shouldn't be closed for a full six weeks because it will hurt local businesses. (Marc-André Cossette/CBC)

"The bottom line is getting tighter and tighter and tighter," he said, adding he worries about how the closure might affect his staff

"We have a lot of employees, who have families, who need to work. And of course, if you're not busy, everyone's losing hours," Moreschi added. 

"It's not as if it's one person getting hurt here. There are 30."