From: Darren D. MacDonald, thenorthbaybay.ca staff
NORTH BAY – It’s no secret: the downtown is struggling.
North Bay’s downtown core has been on an unlucky streak recently: losing Gulliver’s, Pita Pit, Club 151, The Leather Trend, Miyakoi Sushi and Pearls (to name a few). Many have blamed their inability to safely walk downtown, especially at night, as the reason for their lack of support: shoppers fear that they will stumble upon begging bums, “junkies shooting up,” and MPP Vic Fedeli’s office.
But the Downtown Improvement Area (DIA) is trying to change that.
The DIA have started multiple initiatives to give the downtown more life. They put out coloured plastic chairs during the summer, turned a vacant storefront into a Downtown Christmas craft hub in the fall, and controversially invested $10,000 into buying rainbow butterfly hair clips and scarves to spruce up the downtown homeless population. The DIA has always challenged North Bay to “Do It All Downtown”… But now they’re challenging the city to do it before 6pm.
“With the Christmas Season upon us and with our vast City Hall approved powers, we would like to announce that Downtown North Bay officially closes at 6pm!” says Jean Ford, head of the DIA Board of Directors. “We were sitting on this idea for a while, but since most of the stores close by then anyways, we figured: why not make it official?”
Out of the total number of downtown storefronts, currently only 17.7% are open past 6pm. Meaning past 6pm, 66.9% of store fronts are closed, and an additional 15.4% are vacant. The stores that usually remain open are restaurants, a handful of hair salons and Waxman Records.
But with an early closing time that makes the Northgate Mall look like a thriving nightlife, many wonder what will happen to those stores that dare to stay open well into the early evening?
“We don’t think it reflects the downtown mentality, you know, the whole being open after 6 thing,” explains Jean Ford. “We’re giving local businesses until the start of the new year to get with the program, and then we’re going to throw the book at whoever decides to challenge the unfathomable power of the DIA!”
Only time will tell if the DIA’s strict plan will benefit the downtown core, or if the implementation of 9 to 5 “boomer hours” will make the youth feel even more disconnected from what should be the heart of this community.
“This is just the beginning,” smiles Ford. “You don’t even know what powers City Hall gave us. Phase Two is rounding up all the vagrants and then putting them into a designated homeless camp: or as you know it now, the Rotary Splash Pad.”
“That’s just temporary, though, so don’t worry kids; we’ll probably have them moved out by the Labor Day weekend. If not, just think of it as an exciting way to make some wet, wild, and brightly coloured new friends!”