Downtown Winnipeg businesses worry protest convoy scaring away customers

Some downtown businesses say they lost customers Friday morning due to a large protest near the Manitoba Legislature calling for an end to pandemic restrictions.

Bakery owner shuts doors Friday over safety concerns

Protesters calling for an end to vaccine mandates and pandemic restrictions stand along Memorial Boulevard outside the Manitoba Legislature Friday morning. (CBC)

Some downtown businesses say they lost customers Friday morning due to a large protest near the Manitoba Legislature calling for an end to pandemic regulations. 

A number of vehicles parked along Broadway and Memorial Boulevard early Friday morning, while a truck towing a camper trailer blocked Memorial at St. Mary Avenue. Memorial was closed from Broadway to St. Mary, York Avenue was closed from Osborne Street to Kennedy Street, and eastbound Assiniboine Avenue was closed at the Osborne Bridge, police said.

The protest is one of several demonstrations against pandemic restrictions that have occurred across the country recently. The largest protest arrived in Ottawa last weekend and is expected to continue through this weekend.

Mike Timlick, the owner of the auto centre in the Bay Parkade on Memorial Boulevard, said he's had customers cancel their appointments and he understands their reluctance. 

"I mean, people are going to be a little nervous about coming downtown here. Why would you want to deal with that, when there's probably 200 other shops you can go to and have no issues?"

He said he respects people's right to protest but he hopes the disruptions don't last too long. He's worried the protest could drag on for multiple days, as it has in Ottawa. 

"You've got to respect small business and other people who it affects as well. It's not just government, it's affecting me and other regular people," he said. 

Shop closed

The owner of Oh Doughnuts has closed her Broadway location out of concern for staff. 

Amanda Kinden said she can't be at the shop in person Friday due to a personal obligation and she didn't want her employees to have to deal with any potential impacts alone. 

"Knowing that they're going to block the traffic and be very loud and disruptive and then customers are going to be intimidated from coming down as well, it just made sense for everybody to just close down," she said. 

"You know, like, business isn't first for me, it's the people."

Farm tractors and semi-trailer trucks sit in front of the Manitoba Legislative Building on Broadway Friday. (CBC)

Kinden said her business has also been publicly supportive of public health regulations and vaccine mandates, so she was concerned they could be targeted. 

"Just sort of any inkling that something could happen and the staff could be put at any sort of risk is enough for me," she said.

Whether the shop will reopen tomorrow depends on how long the protest lasts, she said.

Fête Ice Cream & Coffee on Assiniboine Avenue is open today and has not encountered any issues, although co-owner Elise Page said she understands why some businesses are closed today.

"I don't think people are there to cause us issues. They just want to bring forward their issues," Page said.

Meanwhile, a memo from the provincial government encouraged legislature employees to work from home Friday due to expected disruptions around the building. 

A spokesperson said the protest has not had any impact on hearings at the Manitoba Law Courts building on York Avenue, and the courthouse remains opens to the public.