Ahead of a July 12 council meeting set to hear whether White Rock’s one-way project for Marine Drive is working for West Beach business owners, restaurateurs along that end of the waterfront strip are rallying support to keep traffic flowing as-is until September.
As of Friday (July 9) afternoon, a petition being promoted through social media had collected nearly 600 signatures, and Kyle Grant, assistant general manager at Charlie Don’t Surf, said he expects the total to top 1,000 by the time it’s submitted to the city Sunday night.
“It’s very, very easy to rally people when they’re pissed off,” Grant said Friday.
City council scheduled Monday’s meeting after hearing from East Beach business owners on July 5. While council had been prepared to end the experiment based on feedback that it was “clearly not working for the majority of East Beach businesses,” a majority of council supported a motion to delay a decision until after West Beach businesses had had a similar opportunity to comment.
The measure was originally introduced by the city to allow businesses to expand their patio space during COVID-19 limitations, and council had pledged to immediately end it once provincial authorities allowed a return to full-capacity in restaurants. It took effect on June 7.
While some East Beach restaurant operators told council that the one-way had boosted their sales, more spoke in the negative, reporting declines of 30 to 40 per cent as well as unfavourable feedback from customers.
Grant, however, argued that simply shutting it down is not a solution, nor would it be fair to businesses who invested thousands of dollars in the measure and hired staff on the basis that it was going to continue through the summer. As well, due to the “arduous” application process, some participating businesses have only recently been given the go-ahead for a patio, while others are still waiting to hear back.
“It’d just be such a shame for it to be cancelled this week.”
Grant said a better move would be to focus on its positives and retool the process where it isn’t working, including streamlining applications, to “create some certainty for the businesses down there.”
He’s advocating for a solutions-oriented approach that also includes boosting awareness of East Beach businesses through signage, for example, at the city’s parkade. Another consideration could be to flip the one-way direction from eastbound to westbound.
“We want to see everybody do well,” he said. “There’s got to be a way.”
Grant added that seeing it through to September would provide the time needed to prove whether or not the experiment worked.
Council voting to simply “pull the plug” will only hurt an already-strained relationship, and force businesses including Charlie’s to cut staff hours, he added.
The petition is asking specifically for those who’ve dined on the beach since the one-way was implemented to sign, “because we want to show people that are coming into town that the one-way… is not a huge inconvenience,” Grant said.
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