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Water main break: Bowness businesses seeing major decline in sales – Calgary Herald

Shop owners and restaurateurs want people to know it’s ‘business as usual’, despite the boil-water advisory issued by the city
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The skin on Rahul Khaana’s hands are chapped from the alcohol he’s used to sanitize them over the past five days.

Khanna, a barber at Fades in Bowness, says it’s no big deal. Aside from filling mist bottles with distilled water and removing hair washes from the menu, the shop hasn’t had to implement drastic measures due to the area’s ongoing poor water quality.

Yet, business is down. The Sunday before the water main break in Montgomery, about 30 people came in for haircuts, he said. A week later, that number was cut in half, which he believes is a product of few people bothering to enter the neighbourhood.
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“It’s been slow,” Khanna said as Bowness entered its fifth day on a boil-water advisory due to the catastrophic water main break just south of the northwest community.

Foot traffic along Bowness’ main shopping strip has slowed to a trickle since last Wednesday’s break, which owners in the area believe is due to the perception that the incident has shut down businesses. Most stores are reporting about 60 per cent fewer sales, while parking spots along Bowness Road N.W. were empty all weekend, said Jacqui Esler, executive director of the Mainstreet Bowness Business Improvement Area (BIA).

“I think they’re a bit shocked,” Esler said Monday morning.

Between messaging that Montgomery and Bowness are tricky to navigate by car due to the construction and images of the neighbourhood during the 2013 floods circulating on television news, Esler said there are misconceptions that the neighbourhood is closed for business. She’s been working to emphasize that Bowness is very much open for business despite the headwinds stores are facing.
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“They’re making sure they don’t close down — that’s the last thing they want,” said Esler, who toured Mayor Jyoti Gondek around the area on Sunday.

Staff at Leopold’s Tavern in Bowness were lugging around water jugs Monday morning. The restaurant has adapted to the conditions and is following Alberta Health Services guidelines by boiling water that’s used to wash produce, blanch French fries and other normal tasks involving water, said Cameron Bury, kitchen manager at Leopold’s.

“We’re getting by — it’s business as usual, just with a couple hurdles,” Bury said.

But like Fades barbershop, which sits across the street, Leopold’s is struggling for business. A number of the bar’s regulars either left town to camp or stayed with family outside of Calgary for access to clean water, he said, which compounded the fact few people are already travelling to the area, he said.

“We had a lot of people passing by but not a lot of people stopping in.”

Indeed, some Calgarians headed to Bowness on Monday to support local businesses. Friends Maria McFarland and Teresa Saraceni decided they’d meet up at Salt & Pepper Mexican Restaurant.

“I can imagine how difficult it is for them to stay afloat,” McFarland said.

This is also the second blow in six months for Bowness businesses, many of which shut down in February due to a separate water main break, Esler said. Overall, only a small handful of businesses briefly closed last week due to the break, primarily to regroup and decide how to operate under city and AHS guidelines.

In a Monday afternoon news conference, Gondek said the city hasn’t made any firm decisions on whether it will provide financial relief to small businesses in Bowness. However, she encouraged Calgarians to visit the area and to support the businesses.

Bowness, meanwhile, remains on an indefinite boil-water advisory — though it could be lifted before the water main is fully repaired, city officials said Monday.

As the neighbourhood navigates the latest setback, Esler said businesses in the area will continue trucking along well after the taps run clean.

“We’re a funny, quirky little group, but they keep going,” Esler said.

Bowness water main break
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