BeaverTails tear down canal kiosks
Plagued by the weather, sometimes too warm and too cold at times, Winterlude ended this year without its main attraction – the Rideau Canal Skateway – opening.
The festival had also postponed its ice carving competition due to extreme cold the first weekend, only to have the sculptures melt days later in warmer weather. Some on-ice events, like the Dragon Boat Race at Mooney’s Bay, have been canceled while others have been adjusted or moved to chilled ice rinks.
Ottawa Tourism says the second weekend of this year saw stronger hotel bookings than the last time the 2020 festival was held in person, but admitted it was “disappointing” that the “big draw” didn’t open for the first time in history of the festival.
Grant Hooker’s BeaverTails Inc. co-founder was beyond disappointed.
“Business on the Rideau Canal Skateway was terrible,” he said.
“There is no business. Zero.”
Hooker said the company will dismantle three of the four kiosks on the canal — at the National Arts Center, Dows Lake and Concord — after months of sitting empty. There’s one leaving on Fifth Avenue, just in case.
“A losing deal”
According to Hooker, it cost about $50,000 to install the four kiosks, prepare the equipment, and hire and train staff in time for the season.
Now he said he faces an additional cost of $10,000 to $15,000 to take down three of those kiosks.
“It’s just a total loss. And then there’s all the lost sales that would have gotten in our way if the skateway had opened,” he said.
“You don’t have to be an accountant to say the channel is a losing proposition this year.”
Hooker added that BeaverTails’ on-land kiosks made more money than usual, but those earnings are a fraction of the revenue the company would generate from on-ice kiosks over a normal winter.
Still, the company relies on that revenue to “keep us alive and ready to come back next year,” he said.
Hooker said the increased shore sales were due in part to the Winterlude celebrations.
According to Melanie Brault, a spokeswoman for Canadian Heritage, which organizes Winterlude, there were many alternative land-based activities for people to take part in.
“It’s been a really great, big party on Sparks Street for the last three weekends,” Brault said.
Still, she said, “We can’t deny that the Rideau Canal Skateway is an iconic piece of Winterlude.”
The annual Winterfest concluded on Family Day with ice skating at Rideau Hall and chilled rinks at Lansdowne and City Hall, and a final free concert at the Rainbow Bistro at ByWard Market.
Skateway “overlooked” at the festival.
Anuj Bhargava, who was at the Rink of Dreams with his family, said he was looking forward to getting a BeaverTail after skating at a land-based kiosk just outside City Hall on Monday.
Still, he said his daughter missed getting onto the channel this year.
“It’s a bit sad,” he said.
Patrick Kavanaugh said he recently moved to Ottawa and had been looking forward to skating on the canal for months.
“I was really bragging about it before we moved here,” he said. “I thought, ‘We have the canal, the longest ice rink in the world,’ and we really couldn’t do that, so it’s a little bit disappointing.”
“I really hope this is an anomaly,” he said.
The Rideau Canal Skateway will remain closed for the time being.
Last week, the NCC said it would provide an update mid-week this week.