Starting Canada Day, there won't be any more cars on Queen Street during the weekend.
The street in Niagara-on-the-Lake's historic district is going to be closed to vehicles for weekends and holidays, NOTL town council decided at a special meeting Friday.
The street will still be open to residents and visitors to access local businesses, inlcuding Hendrik's Valu-mart and the post office.
The closure, from King Street to Victoria Street, will last five months, from 10 a.m. Saturday to midnight Sunday and on statutory holidays.
The town said in a media release that the closure is not intended to allow businesses expand on the street, but to “support physical distancing measures among those wishing to visit the heritage district and to support local business during the busiest times of the season.”
Interim CAO Sheldon Randall said there’s “no doubt that closing Queen Street has long been a contentious topic among businesses, property owners and tenants in the heritage district.”
“At the direction of council, we will do our best to execute this pilot program in a safe and efficient manner, knowing that it may not be the perfect solution for everybody. Right now, town staff is dedicated to doing all we can to protect the health and safety of our residents while supporting our local businesses.”
To offset revenue loss, council also raised parking by $1.50 per hour for the duration of the closure.
The closure program is in partnership with the Niagara-on-the-Lake Chamber of Commerce and the town’s tourism recovery team.
Chamber president Eduardo Lafforgue said the chamber “would like to help facilitate a safe experience on Queen Street, helping at the same time downtown merchants and restaurants to provide additional physical distancing.”
“We have suggested a series of test weekend street closures for Queen Street in July, with an option to extend once it is reevaluated if it’s working,” he stated in the town release.
“These measures are temporary, we need them now because safety and health are paramount for our residents and visitors.”
Lord Mayor Betty Disero said “What is most important right now is that we promote safe physical distancing and that we support our local business community.”
“Only time will tell if this solution helps us achieve both of those.”
The town said “a detailed operational plan” for the temporary closure is still to come.
“Town staff will ensure ample messaging, communication, and signage is provided in order to advise residents and visitors of this closure and to reroute traffic accordingly.”
The decision comes days after the town provided a list of reasons why closing the street isn't so simple.