COVID-19 Resources

Advocating for Downtown Businesses

As the COVID-19 situation evolves, we know that these are times of uncertainty and that every day brings new challenges and new concerns. We’re here to reassure you that we’re available to help our Downtown business community and we’ll play a key role in keeping you up to date with the latest information – in whatever way we can

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Executive Director Ian O’Donnell Message

May 14, 2020

To our members,

After eight long weeks of responding to this crisis in our Downtown community and city as a whole, today’s Phase 1 reopening means the beginning of a road to recovery for our member businesses. We know that everyone is feeling the weighted responsibility and pressure to do things right as we get ready to welcome Edmontonians back. We praise business owners who have put in place the safety guidelines and best practices issued by the authorities having jurisdiction and health authorities to keep their employees and customers safe. But we must also acknowledge the courage of businesses who have chosen to not fully reopen today. We know that many of you are dealing with significant workplace challenges, ranging from human resource issues to insurance policy updates to supply chain problems. Together and slowly, we’ll continue to flatten the curve and rebuild our local economy.

More recently, we have seen many Downtown businesses shift their mindset from crisis mode to response mode. The Artworks, T’zin, Audrey’s Books, Shop Chop, Sabor, Devine Wines, Corso 32, Archetype, Dorinku Osaka, to name a few, have done an incredible job catering to evolving customer needs, upgrading platforms, improving your digital security, and supporting the community. We’ve captured these innovative trends in our newest report “Five COVID-19 Innovation Trends in Downtown Edmonton” and I invite everyone to read it. I would also like to thank the 4,500-plus businesses, across our 13 Business Improvement Areas, that employ thousands for temporarily shifting your operations to allow employees to work from home and telecommute as required.

As we move into the next phase of recovery, our team has been working with various orders of government and industry associations to better understand and ask for clarity around reopening guidelines. To that end, we have launched our Reopening Resources page on our website which compiles documents from the Alberta government, AGLC, Restaurants Canada, the Retail Council of Canada, BOMA Canada and the Environmental Science, Policy, and Research Institute. This guidance is based on the best available information and is not intended to supersede guidance from public health officials or your sector specific organizations.

We have fully accepted the notion that reestablishing Downtown will require the minds of many community leaders and business owners – certainly for the foreseeable future. As such, we have organized a Downtown Recovery Taskforce that is composed of leading industry professionals across all sectors in the Downtown. Its mandate will be to identify risks as well as opportunities and work towards a better way forward for the entire area.

I am very proud of Downtown business owners, managers and employees for your strength, resilience and positive attitudes through the crisis and now into the recovery phases. The Downtown of three months ago will not be the same Downtown three months from now; it will be one built on innovation, creativity and the hard work of many.

Best wishes and thank you all for your efforts.

- Ian O’Donnell, Executive Director



Updated April 30, 2020

To our members,

Good news, we have a plan! Today April 30 at 3:30 pm, premier Jason Kenney will provide an update on a staged relaunch strategy for Alberta’s economy. This news should come as a welcome relief to all our Downtown business owners and workers eager to open their doors and get back to work in the coming weeks. Watch the Premier’s new conference online on the Alberta Government website this afternoon

In the coming days, once we have had a chance to review the plan with the various orders of government, we will make available information about how the Downtown Business Association can support you as we slowly begin to re-open Downtown Edmonton.

Ahead of the announcement from the Province, we have been meeting with the Retail Council of Canada to better understand how we can help retailers navigate Alberta’s reopening plans and what resources and best practices are available from the Council. Downtown retailers should expect to receive specific communication from us or the Council next week.

We are also working with the Canadian Urban Institute and with the Mayor’s Offices, business recovery task forces and BIAs of the six largest Canadian cities on a nation-wide urban research and engagement plan to understand the impact of COVID-19 on local main streets and small businesses. This task force will examine investment and policy changes needed to ensure that local economies and communities can survive, recover and emerge from COVID-19 more resilient than ever.

We’re still hearing that many of you are having trouble filling out government support applications and/or understanding eligibility requirements. We remind you that we are here for you and ready to help.

Stay safe and healthy everyone! We’re in this together.

- Ian O’Donnell, Executive Director



Updated April 20, 2020

To our members,

It’s been a month of working from home and reduced operations for many of our Downtown businesses. In that time, we’ve heard many members voice their concerns that rent deferral and loans may not be enough support to help you pay your bills and reopen your doors. These concerns have been passed on to our federal and provincial government representatives and we continue to work together on recovery efforts.

Last week’s announcements by the federal government brought some significant support to Downtown businesses. The Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) will help small businesses cover rent for April, May and June. The program will provide loans, some forgivable, to commercial property owners who in turn will lower or forgo the rent of small businesses. While we wait for details to announced soon, the DBA has reached out to the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) for their guidance about how our members can best work with building owners and managers to access this support.

We also saw eligibility changes to the federal government’s Canada Emergency Business Account. The eligibility was lowered from $50,000 in annual payroll to $20,000. This change should allow more small businesses to access funds to cover immediate operating expenses. Business owners wishing to apply to this program, should contact their bank for more information.

As one of the primary partners and key stakeholders of the DBA, the City of Edmonton and their Local Economy team have been incredibly supportive and have a considerable amount of resources listed online. Click here to learn more. 

Lastly, with warmer weather upon us, the Downtown Business Association is strongly committed to keeping our shared community clean and safe year-round. We want to help make the daily walks of business owners, residents and visitors safer with less dirt, debris and particulate blowing around. This week we kick off our Downtown Spring Cleanup on April 22 and April 23. During pickup times, participants will receive a cleanup kit that they can keep to safely clean up litter in their community this spring. Anyone interested in making a difference in our Downtown community can email

If you have any ideas of how we can collectively make our community better, please share with us at

Remember, we’re all in this together!

- Ian O’Donnell, Executive Director


Updated April 9, 2020, 4:00 pm

The Downtown Business Association continues to be at the table with all three orders of government and various stakeholders to raise your concerns about the gaps in the support programs announced. We’ve heard from many members that rent relief and access to working capital would help many businesses reopen once things return to normal. These concerns are being heard and we will continue to contribute to the collective efforts to assure business continuity.  This week brought some significant announcements from the federal and provincial governments.  

• The federal government updated the Canadian Wage Subsidy program to allow businesses to use the average revenue of January and February of 2020 as comparison months to measure their revenue drop. Employers that see a drop of at least 15 per cent of their revenue in March 2020 will now also be eligible for the subsidy. 

• The Alberta government announced that employees caring for children affected by school and daycare closures or ill or self-isolated family members due to COVID-19 will have access to unpaid job-protected leave. The 90-day employment requirement is waived and leave length is flexible. 

• The Alberta government announced that it is increasing the maximum time for a temporary layoff from 60 days to 120 days to ensure temporarily laid off employees stay attached to a job longer. This change is retroactive for any temporary layoffs related to COVID-19 that occurred on or after March 17. 

• The federal government will also be changing the Summer Jobs Program this year and will subsidize 100% of student salaries. The timeframe for job placement has also been extended until winter.  

• The City of Edmonton is providing Capital City Clean Up kits to grocery stores and pharmacies across Edmonton in response to an increase of personal protective equipment (PPE) litter in recent weeks. The kits include a litter grabber, gloves, garbage bags and other resources to help business owners.

•  The City of Edmonton urged Edmontonians to limit all transit use to essential trips only. This will help prevent the spread of the virus, protect transit operators and allow those who need to use transit for essential purposes maintain appropriate physical distance on board. 

The Downtown Business Association will continue to take forward member concerns and propose changes and improvements to all the major support programs affecting our business community. 



Updated April 1, 2020, 12:00 pm

As the needs of social service organizations continue to increase and operational capacities of many non-profits remain strained, the Downtown Business Association is committed to providing support to organizations that serve at-risk and vulnerable populations. We are pleased to announce that this morning we made $1,000 donations to YESS - Youth Empowerment and Support Services and iHuman Youth Society to support youth in central Edmonton. 



Updated March 31, 2020, 1:30 pm

The Downtown Business Association is pleased to announce that on Monday, The City of Edmonton approved the deferral of Business Improvement Area (BIA)Tax Levy payments until at least August 31, 2020.

In a news release sent out today, the City of Edmonton announced that businesses that are in financial hardship and cannot make their payments by today’s March 31, 2020, deadline can defer their payments and will not be charged penalties for late payment.

“For the past couple of weeks, we have been working hard with the City of Edmonton and the other 12 BIAs in Edmonton to examine various ways forward for our member businesses,” says Ian O’Donnell, executive director of the Downtown Business Association. “We are extremely pleased with this decision that will provide some financial relief for Downtown business owners.”

The City of Edmonton is also asking that business that are able to pay their BIA tax payment on schedule are encouraged to do so to help keep the City of Edmonton running during these challenging times.

A Business Improvement Area is a geographic area of the city in which businesses pool resources and work together, through a formal association, to enhance the economic development of their area. The City and BIAs share a commitment to build a vibrant economy. All businesses within a BIA, including professional corporations, are members of the BIA and must pay a BIA tax. This BIA tax goes directly to the BIA association that the business is located in. Programs, services and operations of each BIA are financed by the BIA tax.

The Downtown Business Association would like to thank our partners at the City of Edmonton who support our BIAs and advocate on our behalf internally.



Updated March 30, 2020, 1:00 pm

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, we are in still in discussions with the different orders of government to advocate for financial support for small, medium and large businesses within our BIA. We will continue to keep this resources page updated and are holding regular meetings with the other 12 Edmonton BIAs and BIAs across Alberta to examine various ways forward.

Under provincial rules, many of our Downtown restaurants, cafes and bars are still allowed to provide takeout and delivery services to the public. A handful of retailers are also set up to deliver their goods. Whether you are looking for a meal or book to read, please shop locally and browse through our Shop in the Heart list of Downtown businesses that are still operating. We recognize that this list can change by the hour, so inquire ahead of time.

Our most recent donations to charitable organizations include Sorrentino’s Compassion House, WinHouse and the Edmonton Community Foundation’s Rapid Response Fund. With the increased pressures on many service providers, the DBA is committed to providing assistance to organizations who provide support to at-risk and vulnerable populations.

Finally, with less people working in Downtown offices, we have asked the Edmonton Police to increase their patrols of the Downtown pedway system and Downtown in general. Please continue to report issues to the appropriate parties and advise us if there is an issue that you would like us to work on your behalf.



Updated March 19, 2020, 1:20 pm

Every day we are reminded of our organization’s statement of intent ‘To Support, Connect, and Enrich Edmonton’s Downtown Community.’ With the increased pressures on homeless shelters, food banks and other service providers, the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on Edmonton’s most vulnerable in society weighs heavy on all of us. And so, the DBA Board of Directors, along with Executive Director Ian O’Donnell, are very proud to demonstrate our commitment to our community by making donations today of $1000.00 to each of the following organizations/service providers:

Boyle Street Community Services
E4C – Women’s Emergency Accommodation Centre
The Bissell Centre
The Mustard Seed
The Edmonton Food Bank 



Updated March 16, 2020, 5:15 pm

As the number of COVID-19 cases continue to increase daily in Edmonton and across the country, the health and safety of Downtown workers, visitors and residents is of utmost importance to us. And so it is with deep regret, that we have made the decision to cancel Downtown Dining Week, effective Monday, 11:59 pm, March 16, as a precautionary measure to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Our Downtown restaurants have already taken measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19, but we want to take further precautions to ensure that Downtown Dining Week does not compromise the health and safety of our community at large, as we await further direction from our public health authorities and different orders of government.

While we are cancelling the remainder of this year’s event, we are still encouraging you to support Downtown restaurants and the many other businesses in our community that remain open. Consider socially responsible ways to continue your support and ensure that we assist those business owners and their employees in these uncertain times.



Updated March 13, 2020, 5:25 pm

The safety of Downtown Edmonton workers, visitors and residents is of the utmost importance to us here at Downtown Business Association. We are actively monitoring all recommendations and updates from government officials surrounding COVID-19 and we will continue to update our member businesses, stakeholders and public as new information is available.

The first priority for everyone is to take appropriate steps to limit the spread of COVID-19 and ensure our entire community remains healthy.  Our Downtown restaurants, stores and cultural institutions are taking extra steps and precautions to ensure their spaces are clean and safe for customers and workers. As a precautionary measure in response to the spread of COVID-19, the Government of Alberta has mandated that all gatherings of over 250 attendees cannot take place until further notice. If you are attending a large event Downtown, please check with event organizer to see if you’re event is still happening.

During this critical time of adjustments in social events and work schedules, we encourage you to support the many small locally-owned businesses that operate Downtown. Our small businesses are vital economic engines in our Downtown community and play an important role in creating jobs and growth in the Edmonton economy. Now, more than ever, these businesses need your support as they struggle through COVID-19.

For more information about COVID-19, please visit the following websites.