There have been few positive stories to report on in the past year of covering the COVID-19 pandemic.
But perhaps my favourite one involves, well, my favourite shopping destination in Burnaby: Crystal Mall.
It’s the city’s largest Asian mall and in the early days of the pandemic it was hit by some ugly – and false – rumours related to COVID-19.
In the months that followed, the mall was a relative ghost town. Now, I’m not saying it was because of the false rumours because most, if not all, shopping destinations suffered long after the B.C. government eased restrictions. But the Crystal Mall vendors I’ve chatted with during the past few months are still bitter about what happened.
And yet, they have persevered and are starting to thrive. I shop frequently at Crystal Mall because they have many of the items I can’t find anywhere else, especially at its incredible food court. My partner also shops for some of the traditional Chinese medicine shops for the things she likes.
The place is bustling, but still in a physically distanced way. I have yet to see a single person not wearing a mask at Crystal Mall – something I can’t say about the other places I shop.
When I asked food vendors if business is “significantly” better than even a few months ago, they responded with great enthusiasm. I can’t express enough how happy this makes me feel.
Now if B.C. could just get COVID-19 more under control by reducing our cases and rolling out the vaccine.
To help shop owners, the B.C. government has eased the eligibility requirements for small and medium-sized businesses applying for funds under its $345-million pandemic recovery grant program.
The province has also extended the deadline for businesses to apply from the end of this month to Aug. 31, or until all the money has been spent.
Businesses with up to 149 employees must now show a 30 per cent drop in revenue in any one month between March 2020 and the time of application compared with the same time period during the year before.
The grant program previously required businesses to show a 70 per cent drop at some point during March or April last year, plus additional revenue losses of 30 to 50 per cent from May 2020 until their application.
Hopefully this program changes will be meaningful to local business owners.
Meanwhile, I will go and munch on the chilled duck wings and Hainanese chicken rice I bought at Crystal Mall.
- With files from the Canadian Press
Follow Chris Campbell on Twitter @shinebox44.