Tuesday, 21 May 2024

Calgary small businesses remain divided over Olympic bid

With less than a week to go until Calgarians head to the polls to cast their ballot in the plebiscite, there remains a lot of division among Calgary small business owners.

Local business owners – ranging from restaurateurs to Brewery owners to Real Estate groups – favouring a Calgary Olympic bid, banded together Thursday inside longtime stable Nick’s Steakhouse, to show a united front to try and convince Calgarians to vote yes on Tuesday.

Their pitch for an Olympic bid? Calgary will get the international spotlight and exposure, see an increase in jobs and potentially pull hundreds of millions of dollars in investment.

“I don’t always think we’re treated or get the equalization from the feds… when I saw what they’re willing to put up, I thought that’s a good rate of return and we need more facilities,” Ravinder Minhas, founder of Minhas Brewery & Distillery said.

“I want to build my company here. Have faith that this city is going to be strong and on the offence as it should be,” Ryan Gill, CEO of Cult Collective said.

On the other side of the debate, opponents against the Olympic bid said there are too many risks, including the risk of even more tax hikes. Former city alderman John Schmal said he’s speaking out for small businesses and said the bid would only hurt business owners.

“We’re talking about shifting the tax from downtown to all of these small businesses who are up to their necks. They can’t take any more taxes,” Schmal said.

Schmal’s sentiment is echoed by some local businesses in Inglewood who said now isn’t the right time.

“It’s been tough, don’t get me wrong. Businesses have been feeling it for the past few years… why would we want to throw our money at [the Olympics] when we should be looking at propping up our economy as it stands now,” Gravity Espresso & Wine Bar’s Andy Fennel said.

“The costs far outweigh the benefits and I think it’ll be to the detriment of Calgary residents,” Hinchcliff & Lee owner John Lowry said.

They’re also concerned about security overruns and who will be on the hook, adding the price tag for hosting the sporting event is too great.

However, business owners for the Olympics said they’re confident officials will reign in spending.

“The contingency plan is in place. I trust the people that are in charge of 2026. They’re going to make the right decisions, a lot of passion… They’re going to look after it,” Mark Petros, owner of Nick’s Steakhouse.

The debate among business owners – like all residents – will continue until Calgarians cast their ballot on Tuesday.

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