New parking meters are driving away customers in downtown Penticton, business owner says
Revenue cut by half since city installed parking meters on Main Street, says chocolatier
When Céline Nativel opened her vegan chocolate shop on Main Street in Penticton, B.C., early this year, she thought her new venture would fly thanks to its downtown location.
But parking meters installed after her shop's establishment have tremendously reduced foot traffic and revenue for all businesses along the street, she says.
"We saw a huge difference.... We lost all the people we used to have," Nativel told Dominika Lirette, guest host of CBC's Daybreak South.
"Our income … is divided by two, so it's not possible to make a living now."
A former practising psychologist in Lyon, France, Navitel immigrated to the Okanagan city with her physiotherapist husband in 2017.
The pair fell in love with culinary arts after landing in Canada and opened their first confectionery shop, Maison Mulnati, two weeks before Easter.
Nativel says the parking meters — which charge $2 an hour — have been a disaster for her business because many of her customers don't want to pay in order to visit her shop.
"On Facebook, I saw the comments of people and they said … 'It's my city. I won't pay for that,'" she said. "Some of them encourage the business owners to leave downtown and to go out of the city centre."
Nativel and her husband are collecting signatures for an online petition against parking meters on Main Street. She says she has spoken to the City of Penticton.
"I'm sure that they didn't do that to kill the small businesses downtown … but I think that they didn't expect those consequences," Nativel said.
The city's development services director, Blake Laven, says parking meters were put in place — not just on Main Street but also elsewhere downtown — to generate revenue for the municipality.
"The streets and parking spaces are a very valuable taxpayer-owned resource that we considered was being underutilized and not receiving the benefits that taxpayers probably deserve to receive on that very valuable asset.
"The paid parking program does … help the city's finances, especially at a time when we're really challenged with our revenue because of COVID," Laven said.
He says the city has been working with Downtown Penticton Association to create more 10-minute free parking spaces on Main Street for curbside pickup.
Meanwhile, Nativel has reduced her weekly operation by one day and let go her only employee, in order to make up for the financial loss that she says was caused by the parking meters.
For her, the future seems uncertain.
"I really don't know because we signed the lease, so we can't leave right now," she said. "We're barely able to pay the rent if it stays like that."
With files from Daybreak South and Christine Coulter