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Businesses in Canadian, American gay villages struggle amid pandemic: study

Most businesses in the villages fell under the retail, restaurant and entertainment categories
The pride flag flies following a raising ceremony on Parliament Hill Wednesday June 1, 2016 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

A new study has found the businesses in North America’s gay villages were hit harder by the COVID-19 pandemic than those owned by members of the LGBTQ2S+ community elsewhere.

The study, commissioned by e-commerce platform company Lightspeed and carried out by Carleton University’s Sprott School of Business, looked at the impact of the pandemic on businesses that are more than 51 per cent owned by members of the LGBTQ2S+ community — as referred to in the study — in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles.

Most businesses in the villages fell under the retail, restaurant and entertainment categories, which have been hardest hit over the last year and a half, according to data from Statistics Canada. Those that didn’t fall under those categories did not tend to operate within gay villages, said the Sprott School’s Dana Brown.

Though most businesses surveyed were located outside of gay villages, the study found they were concerned about the longevity of business within the villages as they dealt with closures, gentrification and high rent.

Dax Dasilva, CEO of Lightspeed, said in an interview the reasons for commissioning the report were personal as his business got its start in the gay village in Montreal 16 years ago. The work of gathering data on LGBTQ2S+ business leaders is the first step of improving chances for those in the community, he added.

“By understanding some of these local business communities, I think we could be a better advocate for them, and … also be a better provider in terms of solutions,” said Dasilva.

Overall, 60 per cent of respondents reported the pandemic negatively affected their business operations. The study also found that 20 per cent of the businesses surveyed reported having laid off employees since the start of the pandemic.

Despite the challenges, Brown said during an interview respondents did display a level of resiliency.

She also said the research was not only focused on how the businesses fared during the pandemic but the best ways to build stronger communities with the LGBTQ2S+ business landscape.

“My colleagues feel that there’s the potential for fantastic economic impact if we do support these business leaders,” Brown said. “One of the things we see in the study and we know from what we know about LGBTQ businesses is that there are a lot of businesses led by LGBT leaders, and they thrive and they do well and the more the better.”

Which is why Brown said next steps in supporting LGBTQ2S+ business leaders should involve government policy to ensure the community is bolstered to allow for more talent and innovation to enter the countries’ economies.

With the study completed, Dasilva said the LGBTQ2S+ business community may be better equipped to restart operations as COVID-19 restrictions begin to relax across the United States and Canada.

“There’s this big desire to support local, and that I think is a great supporting point to rebuild some of these business communities and build them better,” he said.


This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

The Canadian Press

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