London

More businesses have opened than closed in downtown London since the pandemic started

Since the start of the pandemic, more businesses have opened than shut down in downtown London. According to the London Downtown Business Association, 14 local establishments have opened their doors to the public while eight permanently boarded up theirs — two of which relocated.

14 businesses opened while 8 closed or relocated since March 17

ChickPz owner Rami Sefian says despite a 'rough start,' he is hopeful for what the future brings for his restaurant. The Mediterranean restaurant, which opened on May 21, was one of 14 to open during the pandemic in downtown London. (Submitted by: Rami Sefian)

Since the start of the pandemic, more businesses have opened than shut down in downtown London. According to the London Downtown Business Association, 14 local establishments have opened their doors to the public while eight permanently boarded up theirs — two of which relocated.

ChickPz, one of the 14 that has opened in the downtown core, experienced a "rough start," admits owner Rami Sefian.

The restaurant at 125 King St. serves Middle Eastern cuisine with a Western fusion, from chicken shawarma clubhouses to healthier dishes like build-your-own bowls.

The Palestinian restaurateur, who was planning to open for months prior, said foot traffic was "very slim to none" when the restaurant first opened on May 21. 

"It was a ghost town," Sefian said.  "There wasn't even a point to put banners up, no cars were driving by downtown." But he said the area has livened up since.

Around 20 per cent of the restaurant's revenue comes from walk-ins, Sefian said, while the rest is food delivery apps, including Uber Eats, SkipTheDishes and DoorDash. 

Other businesses that have opened include:

  • Garfield Eats
  • Lazeez Shawarma
  • Haven Home Decor
  • Lebanese Restaurant (Talbot Centre)
  • Gup Shup
  • Kahari & Grill
  • Katsu Express
  • AMOUR and Crowe's Footwear
  • The Whale Tea.
  • La Cucina
  • Frank and Furter's
  • BoFIT Gym
  • Cantoni's

Businesses that have closed or relocated include: 

  • Origins Co
  • Tea Valley (now The Whale Tea)
  • Lofthouse Living (now a home-based business)
  • Framing & Art Centre (relocated)
  • Pub on Richmond
  • BPM Fitness and Yoga
  • Plant Matter Bistro
  • Variety store (Talbot centre)

In the past six months the London Downtown Business Association (LDBA) has provided various grants to support businesses that were newly opening or reopening in the core during the pandemic, says Barbara Maly, the association's executive director.

"We welcome with open arms new businesses that come to downtown London but this is not to say that there have not been some hardships," said Maly.

The grants were intended to help businesses cover costs such as personal protective equipment (PPE) and redesign store layouts to abide by physical distancing rules.

The London Downtown Business Association has provided various grants to support businesses through the pandemic, from help opening up shop to pivoting to e-commerce and new physical distancing rules. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

The LDBA also created a marketing grant to help businesses pivot to e-commerce as foot traffic has significantly decreased with many working from home, said Maly.

Pre-pandemic, Maly says, there were more than 55,000 people working in offices in London's downtown. That number has dropped significantly since March, with so many employers offering flexibility to work from home.

About the Author

Sara Jabakhanji

Digital Journalist

Sara Jabakhanji is a Toronto-based digital reporter with the CBC and graduate of Ryerson's School of Journalism. Sara has chased stories for CBC News across the province in Toronto, Ottawa and London. You can reach her at: sara.jabakhanji@cbc.ca

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