Dan Gemus, president of the Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce and Anne Creery, General Manager of the Chamber presented during February 21, 2023 special council meeting. Gemus mentioned the chamber celebrated its 50th anniversary last year and are at 105 members.
The point was a membership survey about what was important to their needs, and in running their shops.
Members were asked what they need from the town to be more successful in their business:
- there was very strong support for an active tourism department that supports festivals all year long, particularly in the winter season and beyond the downtown core.
- majority support for continuing Open Air weekends in the current format of Friday, Saturday, Sunday.
- There was zero support for discontinuing them entirely. We asked all of those options. Do you support it in the same format and then in various Friday, Saturday, only, biweekly, monthly, or stop it all together? There was zero support for discontinuing them entirely.
Members were also asked about parking:
- divided perception on whether parking is an issue or not.
- As a person that has just relocated back into this area after being in Toronto she thought it becomes an issue of how far are you willing to walk.
- support for hosting some kind of employee parking lot, particularly during festivals, and there was support for that.
- open up spaces by having employees park elsewhere, it’s potentially a solution.
Gemus reiterated the survey results showed there is a large support for Open Air to continue in its current Friday, Saturday Sunday.
Councillor Allaire asked how many members answered the survey.
Gemus 105 members and it was over a third response rate.
Allaire asked if these were just businesses in Amherstburg.
Gemus said not necessarily. They do have members that are outside of Amherstburg.
Councillor Crain asked if employee parking during Open Air was feasible?
Mayor Prue provided history of employee parking at General Amherst High School.
Councillor McArthur noted there was 312 public parking spaces within a three minute walking radius of Richmond and Dalhousie and additional 237 parking spaces within six minutes. The employees’ spaces of the downtown businesses at General Amherst weren’t used.
Pouget asked if it was correct that there are 105 members but only 12 members in the downtown core; 27 businesses not members.
Gemus said 30% of the 105 members responded.
Pouget asked if there were only approximately 12 members in the downtown core.
Creery answered that she’d have to go back; she didn’t do the number count that way.
Pouget said of those 27 businesses, overwhelmingly, they responded and sent her emails and phone calls and said the Open Air hurts their business.
Gemus asked of the 27 which businesses?
Pouget answered businesses that are not Chamber members.
Gemus mentioned they were just there to represent Chamber members.
Pouget stated that 27 that are in the downtown core that are not Chamber members have reached out with problems regarding Open Air. That’ was just a small fraction of the number of emails and phone calls that she received that are opposed to the three days being closed for 20 weeks and this is right across Amherstburg: people with disabilities, people that just want to go downtown and enjoy the parks and the restaurants. They don’t feel Open Air is needed and the businesses out in McGregor, on Sandwich Street and in Malden Centre, they don’t benefit from it at all.
Creery mentioned there were businesses outside of the downtown core that said that they would support Open Air and they also asked about having tourism programming that was outside of the downtown core too and consider looking at festivals outside of the downtown core. But there was support from outside of the core for downtown or for Open Air from our members.
Pouget stated she didn’t receive any of those; she only received the complaints.
McArthur He just didn’t think that now was the time for speeches on Open Air; there was no motion on the floor but for the record he wanted to say that he’s clearly talking to different people than Councillor Pouget because everybody he talked to loves Open Air the way it is.
Allaire moved to receive. Carried.