Business owners in the center ‘defeated’ by convoy closures, harassment

Business owners in downtown Ottawa say they are tired of a protest that has clogged downtown streets, filled the air with roaring horns and killed businesses in the past four days.

Roadblocks and vehicle arrivals started on Friday, and the convoy swelled to its biggest Saturday, according to police, before slowly shrinking into the days that followed. However, many large trucks remain in the center from Monday night.

The protest began in opposition to mandatory vaccination for cross-border truck drivers, but has since evolved to include a number of opposition to COVID-19 public health measures.

“It’s a complete debacle,” said Robin Seguin, who runs the 98-year-old Victoria Barber Shop on O’Connor Street, just steps from Parliament Hill.

Seguin said she would have been open and cut hair Friday and Monday if it were not for the risk to her building and her health that crowds of protesters posed.

Instead of cutting hair, she cuts for hours.

“We want our businesses and our lives back,” Seguin said. “You have come, you have made your point. We hear you loud and clear. It’s time to go.”

Metropolitan Sarah Chown said the restaurant closed Saturday after it became clear it would be impossible to deliver takeaway. (Stu Mills / CBC)

Downtown restaurant targeted due to misinformation

Sarah Chown, the managing partner at Metropolitain Brasserie, had already run out of patience on Monday afternoon.

She spent Friday excitedly preparing for the easing of restrictions across Ontario, allowing for 50 percent capacity for indoor dining from Monday. Instead, on Saturday, she decided to shut the kitchen down, including for take-away orders, as there was no safe way for delivery drivers to get to the restaurant on the corner of Sussex Drive and Wellington Street.

The loss of business after two years of the pandemic turned it into a “bar” weekend, and Chown saw protesters block streets, toot almost incessantly in the air and pee around the restaurant property in broad daylight.

To make matters worse, she later learned that the name of her company appeared on a list of those who pretended to support the protest. The restaurant does not support the convoy, she said.

“I went into a state of panic. There’s a lot of misinformation out there on a lot of topics, and this was just another one,” Chown said.

“I felt defeated.”

Chef Joe Thottungal says he closed his restaurant to protect staff from confronting customers from the convoy. (Included)

‘We must have done something’

Chef Joe Thottungal says customer behavior gradually deteriorated at his downtown Thali restaurant on Saturday, eventually leading to confrontations.

“If you wear masks, we will not have your food,” he says his staff was told.

Thottungal then closed the restaurant on Sunday after hearing about the confrontation at the Shepherds of Good Hope shelter

“It’s not worth it for us to be on the line,” he said. “We must have done something here.”

On Monday, Ottawa’s mayor, police chief and other city officials said they communicated with the remaining protesters, but that they would not commit to a date for when the rest of the convoy would leave downtown.

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