Customers say 'access to money' an issue as downtown Sudbury banks lock doors overnight
Banks say doors to ATM areas locked overnight for safety and security reasons
Five major banking institutions sit within a two-block area in downtown Sudbury, but patrons looking to withdraw cash to spend during a night downtown may find themselves out of luck.
The vestibules for all of the downtown banks are now locked shut past certain hours, leaving the automated teller machines (ATM) inaccessible even to client card holders.
Scotiabank is the only bank to have a 24-hour ATM accessible from the sidewalk, though many people downtown complained the machine is often out of service or runs out of cash due to heavy use.
Until this month, TD Bank was the last downtown institution whose indoor machines were accessible 24 hours a day.
In early September, TD posted a note on the door of its downtown branch indicating its vestibules would henceforth be locked at 10 p.m. TD declined to expand on the decision, only stating it was made for "safety and security reasons."
The move comes amid concerns of increasing signs of loitering, homelessness and substance use in the downtown core.
Bank tellers told the CBC there have been problems for years with people sleeping in the ATM areas, or using drugs and alcohol.
But Sudbury resident Trevor Liscum says locking the doors outright isn't fair to customers who can't get to branches elsewhere in the city.
"It's awful, honestly," said Sudbury resident Trevor Liscum. "It cuts down people's access to money. I kind of understand why [the banks] are doing it, because there have been a lot of robberies and stuff around here in the middle of the night.
"But personally, I think people should be able to go get their money whenever they want. If they decide to come down here at midnight, I guess it's kind of their own risk," added Liscum.
Scotiabank and BMO Bank of Montreal each declined to comment on the accessibility of their downtown bank machines.
Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) sent a statement attributed to Julie Seguin, the Sudbury branch's community manager. Its vestibules close at 11 p.m. every night and re-open at 6 a.m.
"This has been the case for many years while still ensuring we are able to serve clients during high traffic periods," stated Seguin. "Clients wishing to access cash through our large network of ATMs may visit our other locations which are open 24/7."
A CIBC spokesperson sent a statement noting customers may use any of its other "conveniently located" machines elsewhere in the city past certain hours.
People who do find themselves in need of cash downtown at night are often directed to the ATM machine at The Laughing Buddha, a bar and restaurant on Elgin Street.
General manager Veronica Desjardins explained many bars don't accept debit or credit for individual drink purchases. She added numerous people need cash for cover charges at other establishments.
"People definitely come in just for the purpose of using our ATM on a nightly basis," said Desjardins.
She said she hopes it doesn't become an issue that affects her business, adding "we're not a bank."
"At the bar, based on the need for speed, we need people to be able to access cash," explained Desjardins. "If our ATM machine is down and somebody can't go to a bank, then I assume they won't be coming in as frequently."
But she added that any foot traffic is generally good traffic.
"More people coming through our business, having more people checking out our beer selection as they walk through, that might be a good thing for us," offered Desjardins.
Sudbury resident Dalton Ouellette said a simple evening out downtown with friends has become that much more complicated.
"It's pretty inconvenient when you've got to plan your whole night based around what time you're off work and if you can make it to the bank on time to actually pull some cash," explained Ouellette.
Liscum, who lives in the downtown area, explained he has limited means of transportation and extra fees at ATMs can quickly become a burden.
"I don't want to spend the extra $2 or $3 every single time I want a little bit of cash," he said. "I'm not on a huge income, myself. I work on minimum wage, so little things like that definitely add up."
Sudbury resident Rebecca Phippen noted planning ahead isn't always an option when she heads downtown, due to a busy schedule and unforeseen circumstances.
She has used Scotiabank's sidewalk ABM at night in the past, but said it can be unsettling.
"You're just very exposed right on the street, so I'd prefer to go inside somewhere," said Phippen. "And I've been before and it's out of order, or out of envelopes.
"It's definitely inconvenient, but from the other perspective, I do understand why [the banks have locked their doors overnight]."
Downtown Sudbury BIA chair Jeff MacIntyre said he doesn't think people looking to spend money downtown will be impacted.
"There's only so much you can do for convenience," said MacIntyre. "There are other bank machines, they charge a fee, but you can get into the other bank machines [during most of] the day.
"I remember in my 20s, I probably would have been bitter if I couldn't get to a bank machine. But I think in the overall scheme of things, most people will end up just paying with [debit]."