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Some James Bay eateries less busy, staff late since VicPD checkpoints installed

Operators have mixed views on need for Victoria police controls on neighbourhood entry
A VicPD officer speaks with a motorist at a checkpoint at Belleville and Douglas streets on March 23. The police have limited entry to James Bay to local traffic only since March 19, in response to convoy protests that have targeted the area in recent weeks. (Don Descoteau/News Staff)

Some establishments are concerned with the impact of the Victoria Police Department’s traffic control into James Bay, with several reporting fewer customers and late staff arrivals since implementation.

VicPD has, since March 19, restricted entry to local vehicles only, with checkpoints set up on the main routes into the neighbourhood, including the Belleville Street intersections at Government and Douglas streets, and at Cook Street and Dallas Road.

The “controlled access measure” is in response to previous and anticipated convoy-style protests and slow-roll blockades at and around the legislature, VicPD stated in a release. “This has had a significant and unlawful impact on residents and businesses in James Bay and the B.C. Legislature area,” the department said, adding the checkpoints will be up “as long as required to ensure public safety.”

READ ALSO: VicPD announce controlled access to James Bay in preparation for rallies

RELATED STORY: Downtown Victoria residents want action to prevent ‘occupation’ of B.C. capital

The owners and managers of local establishments including the James Bay Inn pub and restaurant, Eggs n’ Plants, Imagine Studio Cafe and Bubby’s Restaurant each told Black Press Media they’ve experienced slower-than-usual business in the days since the measure was put in place.

In the case of Bubby’s, business has picked up at their other Victoria locations, said owner Darioush Diba. Over at the James Bay Inn, some dinner reservations have been cancelled, and both they and Imagine Studio Cafe have seen some staff late for shifts, slowed down by the checkpoints’ five to 10-minute traffic delay, said respective managers Ric Allen and Dorthy Morrison.

James Bay Inn on a very empty Government Street on Thursday, March 24. (Kiernan Green/News Staff)
James Bay Inn on a very empty Government Street on Thursday, March 24. (Kiernan Green/News Staff)

Visitors from outside of James Bay likely make up about 60 per cent of Imagine Studio patrons, Morrison said, leading to a “heightened concern for a reduction in traffic.”

Allen questioned the need for such a broad strategy by VicPD. “You would think they would know, based on the ferry traffic, if there’s anything on its way here. I think it’s a little bit extreme, to tell you the truth,” he said.

One restaurant manager who asked not to be named for publication suggested that a collective statement from James Bay businesses to the Victoria police would be made in the coming days.

Others interviewed supported the VicPD’s efforts around James Bay. The protest honking heard weekly across downtown Victoria would never have been allowed in his native Vienna, Diba said.

“It’s not peaceful, and it’s not Canada. The police are doing what they have to.”

Eggs n’ Plants owner GP Rathore said he had faith in the measure, despite seeing 30 per cent fewer customers in the last five days. “(VicPD) are knowledgeable enough to put these kinds of restrictions in place.”

Allen said the Inn enjoys enough business from James Bay resident regulars to weather the current restriction on visitors. “We have quite a good-sized community,” he said.

READ ALSO: Local truck convoys draw crowds across B.C.

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