‘A big inconvenience for everybody’: Queen Street closure disruptive, downtown businesses say

A closure of a section of Queen Street downtown is disruptive and it could reduce pedestrian traffic in the normally busy area, business owners and workers say.

Ultimately, the closure of four blocks of Queen Street, from Bay to Victoria streets, for 4.5 years could reduce business itself, the business people said.

The closure, which began on Monday, is due to construction of the future Queen station of the Ontario Line. The station is one of 15 new stations on the line that will stretch from Exhibition Place to the Ontario Science Centre.

Metrolinx, the provincial transit agency, says the closure applies to drivers and cyclists but not to pedestrians. Downtown businesses remain open. TTC detours are in place. Metrolinx has promised business owners that pedestrian traffic will continue as usual.

At least one convenience store owner is concerned that the closure could force him into bankruptcy, while one business worker said the closure is already making people late for appointments. A business association says the full impact of the closure is not yet known.

Salim Merchant, a franchisee of the INS Market, a convenience store on the southwest corner of Victoria Street and Queen Street East, said he bought the franchise in November 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic, and the closure is another hit to his business.

“I thought that I might make some extra bread and butter for my family, but even it’s hard to get bread and butter for me,” Merchant said on Monday.

Merchant said he gets 50 to 70 customers per day now that some office workers have returned downtown, but the closure makes him worried about the future.

“We are using our own capital — investing and investing — but we are getting nothing from the business now,” he said.

“I’m only seeing one door open and that is going to a bankruptcy. I don’t see any other doors in front of me. We are not getting any single cent of relief on the rent. How are we going to survive?”

WATCH | CBC’s Julia Knope explains what you need to know about the closure:

How to navigate the Queen Street closure

Starting May 1, Queen Street between Bay and Victoria streets will be closed to traffic until at least 2027. Julia Knope breaks down how you can get around.

For Jonel Franco, a barber at Urban Philosophy Men’s Grooming on Richmond Street East,

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