Winnipeg Restaurant Owners - Barely Making it...
Struggling with higher costs, and fewer customers, Winnipeg restaurants are finding it tough to survive...
When Cindy (not her real name) started her Corydon Avenue restaurant a few years ago, she thought that her restaurant had the recipe for success. But now, she’s joined a growing number of Winnipeg restaurant and club owners who say that Winnipeg is no longer as attractive as it used to be to conduct business in, and its getting worse.
“The city is focusing a lot on the large corporations in Winnipeg and we’re kind of getting neglected here,” Cindy said.
According to the way Cindy sees it, the city has not provided the services that business need to survive — street cleaning and adequate parking are lacking in many areas of the City. She argues that Winnipeg has become less attractive to customers wanting a safe night out as well... "there's too much pan-handling, but the cops instead choose to focus upon excessive Police ticketing, and their never ending photo-radar speed trap scams."
While City safety and basic services drop, the City services for fees are spiraling out of control. The landlords are needing to raise their fees just to keep up with all of the zoning regulations and taxes, resulting in them charging more for prime business real estate. Along with the taxes, the water and hydro, (as well as, food prices), everything to do with running a small restaurant is soaring.
Cindy says she doesn't know how very many of Winnipeg's restaurants will survive in the years ahead. "When I think about the; growing taxes, miles of bureaucratic red-tape involved with keeping the doors open, outrageous Police ticketing practices in this town, endless safety concerns of aggressive pan-handlers and Winnipeg street gangs, high rents, food prices, and maintenance. I just don't know how they will fix things here."
“Honestly, we can't keep up with expenses right now, lease is so expensive, property taxes have jumped up by ten thousand dollars, water is up, hydro is up and my food costs are getting out of reach - I can't keep raising my prices, I'll have no customers,” she said.
“Guess who is going to have to pay for all of these hikes? Us...” "I cannot survive like this..." "I'll be out of business in less than four years if something isn't done - and soon."
Cindy said that while there have been some overtures made by the city to draw customers to the area — space for patios, improvements for pedestrians, more bike paths, and other ideas — they all come with the hefty price tag of higher property taxes year over year. “Everything, everything, everything is so pricey,” she said. Cindy recently put her home up for sale, she's planning on using the money to pay off massive debt she's incurred.
"If I can get some of my debt under control, and the economy improves in the next 2-years, I am hoping I will be able to remain open for business."
Businesses around Cindy are having trouble too, at least four other businesses nearby her's are listed as looking for new owners. It’s a trend that has many restaurant owners in Winnipeg worried. Cindy said she has heard from many businesses along Corydon Ave. who no longer feel that they can be successful on a long term basis in Winnipeg. "If there's another economic down-turn, so many businesses will be finished." “You have to hustle, 7-days a week just to survive, I take almost no money home out of my business, I'm not sure how much longer I can afford to do this” she said.
Cindy's feelings that the city has neglected business owners in favor of growing the large corporate big-box stores in the city, echoes with others as well. Jim, (who did not wish for his business to be named), said that Winnipeg council needs to focus on better infrastructure and upon lowering the cost of both taxes and basic services like Water, if businesses are going to survive.
Not every business is struggling in Winnipeg. But, it is difficult to find many that are thriving, while some struggle to get by, others are barely able to keep the lights on. In many ways, Winnipeg needs to offer small business a lot more support - and they need to do it soon.
Council is spending money like there's no tomorrow on civil servant wages, (Mayor Bowman increased his Mayor's salary by 105% over the previous Mayor - Sam Katz). But, Winnipeg council is not addressing the still-rising costs and a flagging economy. If they don't do something soon, Winnipeg business' could see more For Sale signs in windows.
Cindy, had high hopes when she opened her business six years ago, but now she is far less enthusiastic, and is warning other restaurant entrepreneurs from trying their luck here.
“Winnipeg is desperate to have a cool vibe… but the city council is not getting out enough support to the small business community. If this attitude continues, this city will be in real trouble in the years immediately ahead.”