Restaurant owner calls on council to consider closing part of Pitt St.

Image of Nick Seebruch
By Nick Seebruch
Restaurant owner calls on council to consider closing part of Pitt St.
Hassan Rafiei outside of Schnitzels European Flavours on Tuesday, May 25 (Nick Seebruch/ Seaway News).

CORNWALL, Ontario – Hassan Rafiei, owner of Schnitzels European Flavours, has put forward an idea he says will help restaurants in Cornwall’s downtown, closing Pitt St. on weekends.

Rafiei’s idea would see Pitt St. closed between Second and First streets from 7 a.m. on Fridays to 9 p.m. on Sundays and would allow restaurants in the area to increase their revenue by giving them more outdoor space for tables.

“It would allow each business to expand their area onto the sidewalk and then have people walking the streets (just like a festival) We could have live entertainment in front of the new Arts building which would promote the new building and would attract more people to the area,” Rafiei said in an email to Seaway News. “We would be able to have more patio tables around to allow more people to sit and enjoy their time outside. This would give us the chance to bring in the revenue we have lost and also gain before winter comes around.”

The streets would be closed to vehicles with barriers, and opened to pedestrians with barriers remaining in place overnight.

On Thursday, May 20, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced that restaurants would remain closed to sit down dining until June 14, but some recreational facilities, like splashpads and golf courses, would be allowed to open on the May long weekend.

“My reaction was full of emotions,” Rafiei said of Ford’s announcement. “I was angry, disappointed and confused. It just didn’t make any sense. I am very happy that golf courses are open since they are also a business that has been affected due to this pandemic but it just didn’t make sense that people are allowed to golf together but can’t dine at a table together. Restaurants are safe. We follow health and safety guidelines all the times. So why not open patios?”

Rafiei argued on social media that restaurants were key to the survival of Cornwall’s downtown and were also major employers. He explained how his business had been affected by the pandemic.

“This third lockdown has been the hardest out of them all,” he told Seaway News. “We went from our usual quiet months (January to March) with restrictions to a complete stay-at-home order. With that, we were not able to create a proper cushion of cash to ensure we can survive. I once again had to layoff employees or reduce their hours to the bare minimum. We have lost employees due to the layoffs. We lost about 46 per cent of revenue in 2020. That’s almost half. We had to cut our menu down to ensure that we do not waste food and we have lost customers due to the restrictions that were put in place.”

Greg Pietersma, Executive Director of the Cornwall and Area Chamber of Commerce said that he and the Downtown Business Improvement Area (DBIA) were willing to consider the issue and work with Rafiei to find a solution.

“The BIA is looking at everything it can to support businesses,” said Pietersma, adding that they had spoken with the City of Cornwall about the possibility of closing part of Pitt St. “The important thing is that it has to be for the benefit of more than one business.”

Councillor Justin Towndale tweeted his support of Rafiei’s idea on Friday.

Rafiei said that he had received support from some other businesses on the First to Second St. block of Pitt St. including the owners of Truffles Burger Bar and Life’s Little Pleasures.

“I have spoken to Ahmad from Truffles regarding a shutdown of Pitt St. which he agrees would help us out big time,” Rafiei said.

Last year, Cornwall City Council considered closing that same section of Pitt St., but decided against the idea at that time.

RELATED: Council leaves Pitt St. alone

Below are Rafiei’s tweets of his idea that were posted on Twitter on Friday, May 21.

Share this article