British Columbia

Commercial Drive merchants miffed BC Hydro leaving them in the dark

A plan by BC Hydro to turn off the power to dozens of Commercial Drive businesses for most of Wednesday, Sept. 28, so crews can repair power poles, has left many people upset.

Businesses along a 3-block stretch received a notice to prepare for a daylong power outage

East End Food Co-op will use a rented diesel generator to stay open during planned power outage by BC Hydro. (Belle Puri )

A plan by BC Hydro to turn off the power to dozens of Commercial Drive businesses for most of Wednesday, Sept. 28, so crews can repair power poles, has left many people upset. 

"That happens to be our monthly discount day, so it's our busiest day of the month," said Eternal Abundance co-owner Alex Brigham. 

Eternal Abundance is an organic market and café. 

A flyer advising of the outage was delivered to merchants and residents between Venables Street and Williams Street on Sept. 20. 

It said there would be no power between 8:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m.

"Those are prime business hours," said Brigham.

Eternal Abundance co-owner Alex Brigham says BC Hydro should use suspended globe lights like film crews to do its work at night. (Belle Puri )

"I called Hydro later that day. I was told essentially, it's already been set. There's nothing you can really do about it, and you can kind of figure your own way around it."

Eternal Abundance decided to close for the day.

"If the coolers are closed, they shouldn't warm up too much. We could pack some ice to keep the temperature stable and transfer some things into the freezers," said Brigham. 

Too costly to close for the day 

Across the street from Eternal Abundance, the general manager of East End Food Co-op says he can't afford to close for the day.

"Closing would have cost probably tens of thousands of dollars," said Gus Abato. 

East End Food Co-op general manager Gus Abato feels BC Hydro should pay for his generator rental. (Belle Puri )

"With only one week's notice, we would have had to try to run down our product that's refrigerated. So, we would lose sales beforehand. And then we would have to stock up after it was over, so a couple of days of business at least." 

Abato has opted to keep the store open during the power outage. 

"I called an electrician who did some work for us before and asked him if he could get us a generator," said Gus Abato. 

"They're going to be here at eight o'clock in the morning, and it's going to run for the whole day." 

Abato feels BC Hydro should pay some of the cost.  

11th hour change of plans 

BC Hydro spokeswoman Simi Heer said these types of outages are fairly common.

"We require thousands of outages like this throughout the year. So, that's why we ask customers to prepare for these outages on their own, so that we're able to do this work in a cost-effective way." 

East End Food Co-op will be open despite a power outage planned by BC Hydro. (Belle Puri )

"Our system is aging. It's getting old, so there is a ton of maintenance work that we need to do." 

Hours before the outage was scheduled to take effect, Hydro announced a change in plans. 

Heer said engineers had found a way to lessen the impact of the repair work. 

The length of the outage will be reduced to six hours for 10 businesses in the immediate area of the poles at Williams Street and Commercial Drive and to three hours for everyone else in the area. 

Too late for most

Commercial Drive Business Society executive director Nick Pogor said for many "the news has come too late." 

"It's really put a strain on the businesses as far as labour and staffing goes and, of course, that means loss of revenue and loss of hours for those in the community who work at these shops."   

Mid-afternoon, Gus Abato had not heard the length of the outage had been changed and wondered if he could cancel his order for a generator without being penalized. 

Alex Brigham said it was too late to change plans to close her eatery for the day. 

Eternal Abundance, she said,  will, for this month only, move its customer discount day to Friday.