Parking has always been an issue in downtown Regina, but doubling parking fees will be the final nail in the coffin of many small businesses, says one downtown business owner.
"Downtown is going to be a wasteland of office buildings and absolutely void of people after 5 p.m.," said Greg Hanwell, co-owner of Beer Bros. Gastropub and Deli, located in the F.W. Hill Mall.
"It's not a business friendly budget and we are very disappointed," he said. "All in all it's a pretty good squeeze on businesses in the downtown core. Frankly, some of the smaller businesses will be forced to leave downtown."
On Tuesday, the City of Regina released its proposed 2014 budget, which included a parking meter increase from $1 an hour to $2 an hour.
Mayor Michal Fougere had defended the parking changes. He said the idea is to create more circulation. People can do their shopping and move on, which would bring more people downtown.
On March 17, Hanwell's business will celebrate its sixth year of operation.
He said if he had to do everything all over again he would not open in downtown Regina.
"If we had the benefit of looking into the future, which nobody does, we would not have done this," Hanwell said.
He doesn't anticipate the changes will do anything to attract new businesses to the downtown area.
"Overall we are disappointed in what City Hall is doing to foster - or scare the living crap out of - downtown businesses," said Hanwell. "I think you are going to see a big hole in middle of downtown and you are going to see it soon."
He believes the changes to Regina's downtown have done very little for businesses.
"I don't think the whole spirit of the downtown revitalization has been successfully served by the decisionmaking at City Hall," said Hanwell. "It's very frustrating for us. We are a bigger restaurant, we will weather it. We have weathered everything before. We watch for it. We plan for it, but that's not going to be the rule for businesses downtown - that's going to be the exception."
He said they were once big advocates about the city's plan to revitalize the downtown.
"Everything since that time has been broken promises and crushing disappointment," said Hanwell. His sentiments were shared by Kelly Hague, the owner of Loggies Shoes.
The family-run business has been a downtown fixture for more than a century.
Hague has seen many changes downtown and says the city's plan to revitalize downtown is not working.
He said there was better traffic flow and more parking when 11th Avenue and 12th Avenue were one-way streets.
Hague said the closure of part of 12th Avenue at City Square Plaza has created nothing but congestion.
His store sells specialty shoes and many of his customers are from out of town.
"In bigger cities like Toronto you expect to park five or six blocks away, but not here," said Hague. "Especially the country folks, they if they can't find parking they will move on to one of the malls."
There may be more people working downtown now, but that has not had an impact on his business, he said.
"A lot of those people only have a half-hour lunch break and they aren't going to be shopping during that time," said Hague.
He believes increasing the cost of parking will only deter more people from visiting the downtown area. Jadon Sutherland, a Vintage Vinyl employee, said an increase in parking is not good for employees.
"I t sucks, " he said.
"There's barely any parking downtown as it is."
He said perhaps more people would consider carpooling, but knows that sometimes doesn't work.
Sutherland said he's tried using public transportation but "it's not the best."
Residents who would like to speak to council about the budget can appear as a special delegation by filing a written brief with the city clerk by Feb. 19.
The submissions will be on the city's website on Feb. 21.
Any resulting amendments to the budget will be considered at the Feb. 24 council meeting.