COVID-19 cash crunch forces four businesses from Petrolia’s downtown

The Hub will be closing its Petrolia storefront May 22. Four other businesses have closed their doors downtown this week.

Mayor hopes restaurants can ‘hold on’ after VPP season cancelled for 2020

The economic after shocks of COVID-19 are hitting Petrolia hard.
In a matter of days, four downtown businesses closed their storefronts as May 1 rent came due.

That came on the heels of the announcement that Victoria Playhouse Petrolia announced its 40,000 patrons would not be coming to town as the season was cancelled because of the pandemic.

Thousands of businesses across Canada are closed as health authorities try to reduce the risk of spreading the novel coronavirus. The federal government has set up billions of dollars in subsidies to help unemployed workers and businesses, Most retail businesses remain closed.

Premier Doug Ford has also hinted it is unlikely there will be any large events this summer.

Artistic Directors David Hogan and David Rogers and the staff of Victoria Playhouse Petrolia have decided there is no way to move ahead with the 2020 season because of the uncertainty around COVID-19. Hogan and Rogers had already moved the first show of the season to 2021.

Each summer up to 40,000 people attend performances at the historic theater and pump up to $1.6 million into the regional economy according to statistics from the Town of Petrolia.

While there was no way around the closure, Mayor Brad Loosley says it is going to hurt.

“I do know that this is going to have an impact on them,” he says. “The theater brings in 40,000 people (a year); if half stay for lunch, that’s a lot of people and that’s a lot of revenue.”

Loosley says often the restaurants are crowded patrons in the summer months.
It is not clear whether Lambton County residents patronizing those restaurants will be enough to keep restaurants viable. “Can they ride it out? I hope so.”

And while restaurants are likely to feel the squeeze because of lack of tourists, other businesses are feeling the pinch.

Inkworks Tattoo Studio closed its doors as of May 1. Hub International is moving its Petrolia office to Sarnia as of May 22.

Sew Crafty owner Lindsay Davey announced Tuesday night her storefront on Petrolia Line would close and she would be moving to home based business.

She told her patrons in a video recorded in the now empty studio that she had not been able to weather the economic storm caused by the closings to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“It’s very empty (in the store) and the reality is hitting me right now.”

Davey called the closure “tremendously devastating…it is like watching your entire dreams go up in flames…it is incredibly hard to watch your passion being taken away from you.”

Davey plans to go “on the road” and host classes in people’s homes and in public spaces in the future.

Circle Studio is also closing its two storefronts in the downtown and moving to an online model of business.

Brigitte Taylor made the announcement in a newsletter to her members May 1.

“With business closed, no relief and still no unforeseeable lift in the next coming months, for close proximity meeting space we cannot financially continue to hold onto the physical spaces of Circle Studio,” writes Taylor.

Circle Studio operated out of two downtown storefronts offering group fitness sessions to its members including yoga, pilates and pound programs.
Taylor says they will be selling the studio’s equipment. But she will still have an online presence with her classes on Circle @ Home.

The mayor is aware of more business trying to continue on, but he says whether that happens will have a lot to do with how fast the province begins to reopen the economy. He’s hoping that will happen soon.

“It is hard for small town who are always competing with the malls,” Loosley says adding Petrolia has done well to keep a viable downtown in the past.

But what should be done in the future to keep the downtown viable as storefronts close? “There is no magic answer to that question…I still think the people in Petrolia still realize our downtown and our local people are to try to support them…I hope they can ride it out a little longer.”