Business owner says road construction project has hurt her bottom line

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Leals and Teals restaurant owner Samira Mahmoud is worried that the town’s 50th Avenue infrastructure and road rehabilitation project could mean the death of her business.

And she believes the town needs to take some responsibility for it and that is why she requested Town of Barrhead councillors for compensation in part for the loss of business she has incurred. Council denied the request following an Aug. 14 in-camera meeting.

The project, includes improvements in water and sewage infrastructure, began in the spring.

June 16, to be exact, Mahmoud said, who owns the business with her husband.

“I’m not asking for full compensation [later in the interview she said she asked the town for about $10,000, which is equivalent to two months rent], but I have lost a lot of business. They have to understand I have a restaurant and it isn’t like other businesses, which might be able to make other arrangements to serve their customers. My business depends on walk-ins, which I am no longer getting because of how difficult it is getting around the construction.”

Since construction began Mahmoud estimates her business is down by more than 50 per cent, dropping from $35,000 to $40,000 monthly down to about $15,000.

For example, on the day the Leader visited, Aug. 29, during weekday lunch hour rush Mahmoud said she would normally have 15 tables filled, but instead she had two.

To make matters worse, she said, the construction has made it difficult for her to maintain her stock as some delivery drivers are not able, or willing to cart her order by hand.

“How am I supposed to make it?” Mahmoud said.

When construction began, she approached town staff about her concerns and was told the project would last eight weeks and that the five-block construction project would be done in sections to minimize disruption to area businesses.

Something that, for the most part, did not happen.

“What are we up to now 12 weeks? Yesterday [Aug. 28] I talked to one of the workers who is working on the sidewalks who said it would be another month-and-a-half until they are done. That means it won’t be until the middle of October, if we are lucky, until everything is done,” she said.

The Leader contacted Associate Engineering, which is overseeing the project for an estimate of when the project might be complete, but received no reply by press deadline.

However, if access to her business isn’t significantly improved soon, or council reconsiders her compensation request, Mahmoud said the future of her restaurant is in doubt.

“I’m worried about making rent,” she said, adding she also approached her landlord, but he replied that it was the town’s responsibility as it wasn’t his property.

Mahmoud said she wasn’t sure what she was going to do next, adding she didn’t want to take legal action against the town, noting given her current financial situation she isn’t sure she could afford a lawyer.

“The town has to do something. They should have been on their [construction company’s]case to hold them more accountable so they made sure customers could still have decent access to businesses,” she said, adding she hopes more businesses voice their complaints to the town. “Or maybe this will get the [provincial]government involved and they can make a law where businesses receive compensation for their lost business.”

In the spring the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) released a report stating about 65,000 Canadian businesses had been impacted by projects between 2012 and 2017 and needed to take loans, move or just completely shut down because of the factors associated with construction projects.

The CFIB also suggests municipalities need to implement a policy to create a compensation program for businesses affected by moderate to major projects, impose bonuses and penalties on contractors for early and late completion dates and put a business liaison officer in place to help communication between businesses and construction site managers.

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