Constant State of Flux – How Downtown Businesses are Adapting to Doing Business During a Pandemic

Part 8

Resiliency in Downtown Hamilton


Groundhog Day has come and gone for 2021, but for many of us it might have felt that we’ve spent that last year in a Groundhog Day-esque state of mind. We are approaching nearly a full year living with some degree of COVID-19 restrictions, and we’ve been hearing a lot about pandemic fatigue and how to manage this temporary reality. While COVID-19 restrictions have brought to light a host of challenges for both employees and employers, families and individuals, we have also come a long way. An entire year of restrictions, but also an entire year closer to the end of said restrictions. We will get to enjoy a meal out with friend again, a drink at a bar or have someone stand within six feet of us and not feel totally ill at ease. Much of this will come from the fact that our small businesses chose to persevere wherever possible.

We’ve heard many people speculate – will people really WANT to return to the way things were? This is brought up especially in terms of large scale events, concerts or and the entertainment industry as a whole but also in terms of how we access our favourite businesses. I think the answer is a resounding yes, and to see why we need only to look at our own history.

Taking a look at the city of Hamilton itself we see pattern of resiliency and perseverance. The city has gone through centuries of change, from bustling city center, to decline, to revitalization again throughout its history. In the not so distant past there were many people that refused to go to Hamilton, let alone to live or work here. Now we see a significant demand for individuals and businesses to locate themselves here, and not just out of necessity but out of a desire to do so. The rise and fall of cities is of course nuanced and multifaceted, but there’s no doubt that there is a resiliency and desire to move forward in Hamilton. No where do we see this more than through our downtown businesses.

Downtowns are the hearts of cities, historically the hubs for art, entertainment, food, business and more, these areas of life have all been thrown into question in the midst of COVID-19. With so many employees working from home we see a significant decline in foot traffic downtown. Faced with a decline in easily accessible customers, COVID-19 restrictions and massive uncertainty many businesses could justifiably have closed their doors for the duration of lockdowns. Instead, we have seen our downtown businesses doing whatever they can to pivot their operations and remain open and relevant to the needs of customers. Whether it’s restaurants creating meal kits, holiday specials and signature bottled cocktails for people to enjoy at home, retail stores offering phone in orders and local delivery or professional services and nonprofits working remotely to still deliver their services, there is no doubt that downtown Hamilton businesses have stepped up to the plate.

This is not to say that our small business community does not face immense challenges on a daily basis. We have seen through these blog posts, however, and the quick thinking of our members the true resiliency of our downtown businesses. Some organizations have been in downtown Hamilton for decades, they have weathered the changes and shifts and we are lucky to have these businesses and new additions to support our city once restrictions are lifted.  As our businesses continue to find new ways to persevere, at the Downtown Hamilton BIA office we continue to seek out new ways to support them and downtown as a whole through initiatives, events, and art pieces, both within restrictions and after.

The resiliency of our businesses is one which flows out through the community. Having options for food, retail and more still available when little else is brings a little bit of joy to a difficult experience. When we think about whether there will be an appetite for events and typical public life post COVID-19, I’m confident the community in Hamilton will seize the opportunity to get back to celebrating together.





If you are a Downtown Hamilton BIA member business and would like to share your experiences during COVID-19 please email Suzi Ozer at



The Downtown Update is the e-newsletter sent by the Downtown Hamilton Business Improvement Area to keep both members of the BIA and interested supporters of Downtown up-to-date with activities and issues in the core of our community.