By Gordie Wornoff
Almost half of Centretown businesses plan to remain open for Remembrance Day, despite the city’s proposed bylaw requiring them to close, according to a Centretown News survey.
In the survey, only eight said they’ve closed in the past and plan to again. The remaining seven said they haven’t closed in the past don’t plan on closing this year. The informal survey consisted of 15 Centretown businesses which fall under the city’s criteria of “non-essential,” meaning they must close until 12:30 on Remembrance Day.
The proposed bylaw would ensure all businesses in the newly amalgamated city do what Centretown businesses have technically been required to do since 1967.
Essential services including gas stations, pharmacies, grocery stores and newsstands are not affected and will stay open on the morning of Nov. 11.
Susan Jones, director of bylaw services with the City of Ottawa, says the city expects businesses to comply.
“This is not an area we’re expecting non-compliance in,” says Jones. Bylaw officers have been informing businesses to ensure awareness about who is affected, says Jones.
Violators of the bylaw could face up to $5,000 in fines.
Ginette St. Martin, manager of Ottawa Leather Goods on Sparks Street, says they’ve always closed for the ceremony.
“We think it’s important and we need to remember because we don’t want it to happen again,” says St. Martin.
However, John Hatum, owner of John’s Pizza on Wellington Street, said he’d heard of the bylaw, adding, “but I’ve never closed and I don’t plan to.”
Duane Daly, dominion secretary for the Royal Canadian Legion, says he strongly supports the proposed bylaw. He says it’s important to keep distractions down for the “very solemn and significant act of remembrance on Nov. 11 in respect for our veterans.”
“It’s important that as many businesses close as possible, so that we can all participate and reflect as a city and a society in general,” adds Diane Deans. The bylaw was put forward by the emergency and protective services committee, of which Deans is the chair.
Daly says the bylaw is appropriate to keep the amalgamated city consistent
“It’s unfair for stores in the downtown core to be closed while other suburban centres remain open,” says Daly.
Cindy VanBuskirk, director of marketing and leasing at the Rideau Centre, says the Rideau Centre has always co-operated with the bylaw. Several years ago, VanBuskirk asked the city council to let them open at 11:30 to capture the crowds departing from the ceremony.
“The legion was not amenable to it and the city wouldn’t go ahead without the support of the Legion, so we’re happy and content to work with them,” says VanBuskirk.
Anne Wallner, manager of Alyea Jewllers on Sparks Street, says they’ve always closed for Remembrance Day.
“I’ve never noticed business being hurt by it,” says Wallner.
Steve Watson, a manager at the Elephant & Castle at the Rideau Centre, says his restaurant normally opens around noon on Remembrance Day.
“Lots of veterans drop by and we all pay respects together. It gives everyone a chance to pause and remember what these gentlemen and ladies sacrificed for us,” he says.
Don Gauthier, an Ottawa resident, says he’s never heard of the bylaw, but thinks it’s a decent idea.
“One day without shopping won’t hurt anyone,” he says.
Deans says she expects council will pass the bylaw in the next few weeks.
Remembrance Day, she says, is an occasion that has always enjoyed widespread public support in Ottawa.