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Saturday, June 26, 2010 Toronto Edition
 

 

G20 turning downtown Toronto into a ghost town

Downtown restaurants and parking lots already seeing dip in revenue

2010/06/22 21:52:00
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Protesters representing gay, lesbian and transgendered people marched along Yonge St. Tuesday in a G20 protest to raise awareness of violence against the queer and trans communities.

Protesters representing gay, lesbian and transgendered people marched along Yonge St. Tuesday in a G20 protest to raise awareness of violence against the queer and trans communities.

RICK MADONIK/TORONTO STAR
Jennifer Yang
Liam Casey Staff Reporters

There are no tumbleweeds rolling down Bay St. just yet but the signs are everywhere: downtown Toronto is set to become a ghost town once the G20 takes over.

The summit is just days away and while protesters and police are beginning to flood the downtown core, the well-heeled and pinstriped are starting to flee.

Big banks have already kicked in their contingency plans, emptying their Bay St. towers as employees work from home or satellite locations. At the Bank of Montreal, about 20 per cent of its approximately 6,000 downtown workers are already offsite, with as many as 75 per cent expected to stay away Thursday and Friday.

Erika Degroot, a 36-year-old financial adviser, noticed a surprising change while taking the GO Train to work Tuesday.

“I got a seat this morning,” she said. “That’s rare.”

Other commuters also reported a bit of extra leg room during their morning treks and GO Train officials noted a “slight decrease” in ridership Monday and Tuesday.

Near the G20 security zone, a parking lot manager said traffic is down between 35 and 40 per cent. At a Citipark lot near the King Edward Hotel, cars are usually packed three deep but on Tuesday afternoon, the lot sat half empty.

Some downtown restaurants are already experiencing a drop in business. At P.J. O’Brien, restaurant manager Lee Finch leafed through his reservation book and pointed to pages of crossed out bookings. About 150 people have cancelled their reservations at the Irish pub and restaurant, with most blaming the G20 for their sudden change in plans.

Meanwhile, a man in his 30s was arrested in a G20-related police raid on a house in the Eglinton Ave. and Bathurst St. area. around noon Tuesday. Police are keeping tight-lipped on why the house was searched or what — if anything — was seized.

A day after protesters temporarily flooded an Esso gas station in a “symbolic occupation,” members of Toronto Community Mobilization Network said Tuesday that gas stations and banks will be targets for more downtown actions leading up to the summit.

While the Network isn’t advocating violence at this week’s protests, it’s not telling protesters to refrain from property damage against large corporations, said spokesman Syed Hussan.

“In terms of property, we’re really not trying to tell what activists what to do. We’re trying to tell the G20 what to do, which is to go away.”

Ray Domenico, on the other hand, is embracing the summit. Domenico, general manager of Hotel Victoria, said the 56-room hotel was sold out Monday and is booked for the entire weekend.

“I wish we had (the G20) every week,” he said.

With files from Denise Balkissoon and The Canadian Press

Also see:

Man arrested and left in wire cage under new G20 law

Are pandas China’s G20 gift to Toronto?

What to expect this weekend in 'Fortress Toronto'

Couple wins battle to demolish Beach house

Rocco Rossi’s ‘army’ is online

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