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Navigating Covid-19

As the world was swept into a pandemic of unforeseen magnitude, many worked hard at keeping their footing while pivoting with the constant changes, updates, news, and regulations. Sparks Street BIA (SSBIA) having just come out of a successful Winterlude

season is among those who switched gears from major event planning and business

marketing to navigating a whole new environment of shutdowns and unknowns.

Some of what the SSBIA has been up to has been visible through our social media

channels as we worked to create a one-stop online shop where gift certificates could

be found for many of our business and restaurants. We partnered with the FanSaves Gift Certificate Program and assisted in upgrading many of our businesses to online shopping opportunities as our members strengthened or evolved their online presences.

In the first weeks of the pandemic, the SSBIA created an online member page where access to all the important and ever-updating information they needed could be found in one place: from news releases, useful links, to provincial regulations and bylaws. In a world scattered with information, we compiled the most pertinent and useful on this page as we progressed from the unknown to Phase 1, 2, and will continue to as we look forward to

Phase 3.

Behind the scenes, the SSBIA worked to support our members as quickly as possible by getting board approval to reallocate our annual budget to provide an E-Commerce Grant. Our members were invited to apply for a $1,000 grant to assist them with creating their online shopping platforms or online marketing campaigns. We are happy to report that many took advantage of this initiative.

When Phase 2 allowed for the reopening of patios, the SSBIA waived the patio permit fees and has been working closely with its restaurants in expanding their usual footprints to accommodate the new physical distancing regulations.

The SSBIA continues to work closely with its partners, including the City of Ottawa, Ottawa Public HealthOttawa Festivals, Ottawa Tourism, Ottawa Coalition of BIAs, the Ontario Business Improvement Association, and IDA Canada. Our efforts were focused on ensuring that COVID-19 legislation was created and adapted to suit the needs of our members from rent to CEBA to employee supports, to gain insights to how other organizations are succeeding and bringing best practices back to our membership, among many other useful tools and knowledge gained through these cooperative networks.

Some visible updates to the street can be observed when you take a walk and see our phone booths now displaying physical distancing reminders echoing the city’s guidelines. If you peek into shops and restaurants, you may notice the window decals which match the floor

stickers with their cute animal footprints letting you know distance-friendly service is offered here. The SSBIA also partnered with Top Shelf Distilleries to provide sanitizer kits which we distributed to our members.

What you may have seen the most as everyone swerved online is our efforts to maintain a connection between our businesses and restaurants and YOU, their valued customers, patrons and neighbours. Through all the uncertainty and sometimes wobbly progression, the local love has been felt across all the SSBIA social media channels and has made a big difference in keeping up our morale as well as our members’.

Supporting one another through tough times is part of what makes this city so terrific and we are grateful to find ourselves in this together at the heart of it with the next phase just around the physically-distanced corner.

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