Downtown Edmonton businesses hoping to profit from Oilers playoff push

While the Oilers playoff run is anticipated to give downtown businesses a boost, the city and the province are hopeful new grants will help revitalize Edmonton’s core long-term.

By CityNews Staff

The game day nightlife is a given with playoff season in downtown Edmonton. But when it comes to getting people back into the core on an average day, businesses still feeling a cloud of pandemic uncertainty.

“Downtown will come back, that’s our hope and we are hanging on it,” said Tony Le, director of culinary Birdog.

Playoffs gamedays mean every table is already reserved at Birdog. However, since opening in November, the restaurant hasn’t been able to open for lunch.

“We want to be, but we are waiting for that foot traffic to be back.”

With work-from-home and hybrid schedules, downtown foot traffic isn’t the same as pre-2020 and office vacancy rates remain high.

This uncertainty is impacting those looking to open retail stores according to the Downtown Business Association (DBA).

“Just not knowing because the return to the office has been this slow build, not being able to get a clear gage on how much walk by traffic they can expect on a typical day,” said Puneeta McBryan, executive director of DBA.

But the city and province are standing together to highlight supports. Edmonton, offering $5,000 grants for new patios, While the DBA works with the University of Alberta for marketing grants.

The previously announced provincial dollars for downtown, are allowing new retail stores setting up shop downtown to apply for one of six grants of up to $250,000 in start-up costs.

The minister of jobs is hopeful this will help, as he advocates for more workers downtown.

“Is it going to be overnight? No. certainly not. But we need to work on getting people back to the office so we have the incredible vibrancy we once had in downtown Edmonton and Calgary,” said Brian Jean, Minister of Jobs, Economy and Northern Development.

Stressing, alongside the mayor, this is happening as work is underway to address safety.

“We want a thriving downtown, that’s why we have been investing a significant amount of resources in safety, vibrancy, cleaning up our back alleys and front street,’ said Mayor Amarjeet Sohi.

And while in short terms, downtown will see an orange and blue economic spin-off, Birdog is hoping the Oilers playoff run goes well into patio season for restaurants like them taking advantage of the new grant.

“Show atmosphere, show people having a great experience downtown, it just brings more people downtown, people attract people, that’s what I always say.”

-With files from Carly Robinson, CityNews

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