Cold snap keeps people inside, away from Ottawa stores

Some Ottawa restaurants and businesses say recent cold weather is causing people to change or cancel their plans and discouraging them from eating out.

Employees say wind chill nearing -40 C making slow month even worse

Some Ottawa businesses say recent cold snaps have cut into their bottom lines. 2:21
George Sabeh owns the Wellington Eatery and said they're seeing about 20 people a day less than they usually do for January. (Andrew Foote/CBC)
Some Ottawa restaurants and businesses say recent cold weather is causing people to change or cancel their plans and discouraging them from eating out.

Both the City of Ottawa and Environment Canada have issued weather advisories this week as temperatures near -40 C, with health officials saying to stay inside if possible.

Because of that, restaurant employees said people are changing their plans.

George Sabeh owns the Wellington Eatery in Ottawa's Hintonburg neighbourhood said about 20 fewer people are coming through his doors this week than normally visit in January.

"Nobody wants to go out," he said.

"We had reservations a couple of weeks ago when we had the cold spell… they all cancelled out. The weekend after that we had the ice storm, same thing."

Cold means people are driving, not walking

Owners and employees of other stores say they've seen a similar drop-off.

Sales clerk Peter Waiser said the drop-off in customers this winter has been dramatic. (CBC)
"Business in January is generally a little bit slower for us because it's after the holiday season, but definitely in this -40 C weather people are not wanting to get out of their cars to come in," said Christie Toffolo of Suzy Q Doughnuts.

On Bank Street, Henry's camera store clerk Peter Waiser said there is little extra the store can do to draw in more customers, since many items are already on sale.

"It's always sluggish in January and February, that's normal, but we're certainly noticing it with this Arctic weather that we're having," said Waiser. "It's made a major difference."

Gabriel's Pizza manager Elias Hanna said his Bank Street restaurant often relies on walk-bys during the day for business. He said they are not even seeing a quarter of what they usually do.

"People are not walking, it's that's too cold," said Hanna.

Customer says cold weather has some benefits

Chris Liebich says people are hunkering down and choosing to stay at home during the cold snap. (Andrew Foote/CBC)
Chris Liebich said he's a regular at the Wellington Eatery and lives within walking distance, so the cold isn't too bad for him.

He said he wonders if some restaurants may be getting somewhat of a benefit from the cold if diners chose to linger over their meal.

"Those who come may be in more need of hot sustenance and stay longer," he said.

Restaurant staff who spoke to CBC News said they hope warmer temperatures in the forecast for the weekend will make people more willing to leave their homes.