COVID has affected most businesses in Hamilton and the stallholders at the Hamilton Farmers’ Market are no exception. The Market Board is asking council to provide ma rent reduction that would be the equivalent of the 75 percent rent subsidy that the federal government is providing to retail tenants through the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) program. As it operated on municipal property the market is not eligible for the federal program which is aimed at commercial landlords.
Hamilton Farmers’ Market has been facing challenges even prior to the COVID outbreak due to competition from the Nations Supermarket in Jackson Square. The Market has also been hit with internal wrangling between stallholders.
In a letter to council, Market Board Chair Eric Miller says, “the Market incurred additional costs while it experienced an 83% decrease in customers in late March. Customer counts in the first week of June are 75% below pre-pandemic levels.” The closure of Jackson Square blocked a major point of access to the Market, and “some regular shoppers feared using transit, and many have been intimidated by the gathering of street-people at York and Bay.”
Some 54 businesses were ordered to halt or restrict their offerings dur to COVID. “The remaining 23 businesses continued to provide essential food, but with reduced sales and smaller margins. The resulting hardship for all businesses continues to challenge their ability to pay rent and other costs.”
The letter asks the city to mirror the federal program which would amount to 75% of the regular monthly rent revenue for April and May and June 2020, which amounts to about $91,000.