Many small business owners in Ottawa’s downtown core and ByWard Market are hanging by a thread.

After coping with COVID-19 closures, they’re now trying to recover from a three-week trucker blockade.

Joseph Haddad has owned Bytown Shoe Repair for almost 10 years. He was barely able to get by this month, with little to no business.

“Oh, it’s been bad,” says Haddad. “Even during the pandemic, we haven’t seen anything like this.”

Haddad lost close to 80 per cent of his sales because of the trucker occupation downtown.

“What I would be making normally in a day, it would go one week, one week and half, because of the demonstration.”

Just around the corner at Gyubee Japanese Grill, owner Robert Xu couldn’t get anything delivered to his restaurant during the protest because trucks were blocking the roads.

“We have been impacted a lot,” says Xu. “I have been so worried about the supplier stuff because we need food. We need supplies for the kitchen, for the front desk. But most of the items, we cannot receive.”

He also estimates an 80 per cent drop in sales. He’s relieved though, to finally welcome patrons back into his restaurant.

After being open for only one hour Tuesday, he said the restaurant was already at half capacity.

“A very good sign that that customers still like us and they still want to come to eat,” says Xu.

Also hard hit, restaurant and retail staff. They’ve had no pay for more than three weeks, and are having trouble paying rent and buying groceries.

“I’m living in Sandy Hill. The rent is $1,400 a month,” says Gyubee employee Doven Chen. “I have a kid. I have a wife. My wife is taking care of the baby at home alone. So it’s quite tough.”

The Rideau Centre, one of the largest malls in Canada, and a major transit hub, was finally able to reopen Tuesday after being closed for 24 days, though the reopening was marred by an incident requiring a significant police response that locked down the mall for about three hours Tuesday afternoon before an arrest was made.

The Retail Council of Canada estimates the shopping mall lost close to $70 million during the closure.

“RCC is relieved that the Rideau Centre has been reopened. With a 24-day closure of the shopping mall, we estimate that there was about $67.8 million in lost sales during this time.”

Duran Mohamed, who works in the Rideau Centre, is glad to finally be back to work.

“It’s been tough being stuck in my house, not being able to leave,” says Mohamed. “It’s definitely discouraging not being able to pay off all of my bills.”

Back at Bytown Shoe Repair, Haddad says he will keep working, but for how long is the question.

“I’m trying really hard to keep this business going as much as I can,” says Haddad, “but I can’t promise even myself if I’m going to hold onto it or not. It’s been hard.”