Single lane alternating traffic continues on the 5th Street Bridge as the repair process continues. Scott Stanfield photo

Single lane alternating traffic continues on the 5th Street Bridge as the repair process continues. Scott Stanfield photo

Bridge repairs, COVID a double whammy for Courtenay businesses

The COVID pandemic, coupled with an extended period to repair the 5th Street Bridge, has been making it tough for Rod Robertson to conduct business. In fact, the owner of Courtenay Barbers at 5th and Cliffe is worried he might lose his business altogether.

“COVID has affected me, and now the bridge has affected me even more,” said Robertson, who has owned Courtenay Barbers since 1995. “They (customers) don’t want to deal with coming over the bridge and the traffic and the headache.”

A couple of times on a Saturday — normally his busiest day of the week — Robertson only completed five haircuts. Before COVID, he was doing 14-18 cuts on a Saturday.

During the first wave of COVID, Robertson had received $2,000 a month from government when he closed his business for a few months. That money, however, has dried up.

He had hoped customers would return in October when bridge repairs were slated to be finished; however, the rehabilitation project will continue through Christmas and into 2022 due to equipment malfunctions, scaffolding install and labour shortages, the City of Courtenay has said.

READ: Courtenay’s Fifth Street bridge project completion further delayed

Robertson also felt a hit when COVID numbers again started to climb.

“People just don’t feel safe,” he said. “But the bridge definitely made it even worse.”

Blue Toque Sports is located on 5th Street between the bridge and Courtenay Barbers. Since the busiest time of year is November to January, owner Paul Laperriere feels the bridge repair period is “going to cut into sales.” At the same time, he is certain the repairs are hurting other businesses more than his.

“It hasn’t really hurt us too bad, but I feel badly for the people that it has,” Laperriere said.

Jon Rankin, who owns Mountain City Cycle next door to Blue Toque, also feels for the businesses that might not make it due to the lack of traffic.

“The bridge construction is definitely putting a damper on things,” said Rankin, who has heard numerous customers say they’ve been doing everything they can to avoid coming downtown due to the construction.

“That’s not the type of thing a business wants to hear. That being said, the bike business is pretty healthy right now and those customers who are making the effort to get through are spending money.”

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