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Duckworth Street restaurants launch contest encouraging St. John's foodies to come grab a bite

A server at Get Stuffed speaks to customers on the outdoor patio on Duckworth Street Friday afternoon.

Keith Gosse/The Telegram
A server at Get Stuffed speaks to customers on the outdoor patio on Duckworth Street Friday afternoon. – Keith Gosse/The Telegram

Water Street pedestrian mall attracting the bulk of food business since early July launch

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

A group of restaurants on Duckworth Street in downtown St. John's are joining forces on a contest devoted to the culinary delights they have to offer in hopes of being able to better compete with the popular pedestrian mall on Water Street.

Since its launch in early July, the stretch of Water Street open to pedestrians only has proven to be a huge hit with the public, giving a lot of local restaurants much-needed business in a year when they've been hurting financially due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, restaurant owners on Duckworth Street, which runs parallel to Water Street, have voiced concerns that the pedestrian mall is taking business away from them. Local business association Downtown St. John's subsequently arranged a meeting held July 21 between city representatives and restaurant owners. Among those who took part was Kate Vallis, one of the co-owners of Piatto Pizzeria and Enoteca Pizzeria, a restaurant with locations on Duckworth Street and Elizabeth Avenue.

"It's no surprise to anybody that the businesses on Duckworth Street have been feeling the effects of the pedestrian mall," she told The Telegram.

Kate Vallis is one of the owners of Piatto Pizzeria in St. John's. — SCREENGRAB
Kate Vallis is one of the owners of Piatto Pizzeria in St. John's. — SCREENGRAB

Following the recent meeting with the city, Vallis started thinking about how the frustrated restaurant owners might band together and find a way to attract diners this summer. Conversations with Magnum & Steins co-owner Denise Fowler and other restaurants resulted in Duckworth Dining, a contest designed to get people excited about checking out what flavours the street has to offer.

"There's so many amazing local and family-run restaurants on Duckworth Street, as well as Water Street, and we just want to bring some attention back up to to everybody up here," Vallis said. "A lot of people are coming down to the pedestrian mall and you're so close to Duckworth Street that it's only a couple of extra steps up the road and you have access to all these other amazing places."

How to win

Diners can collect stamps on a passport by spending $15 at each of the 15 restaurants involved during the month of August. Those who get their passport fully stamped can enter for a chance to win a prize valued at over $500, including a one-night stay at the Duckworth Inn and a gift card bundle for all participating restaurants. Additional one-off prizes will be awarded throughout the month.

"It's a great opportunity for us to work with other businesses in the area and get to know the owners," said Fowler. "We're all quite excited about it."

Fowler and Vallis both agree it's been a hard year for their industry, citing January's snowstorm state of emergency and the COVID-19 pandemic as a double whammy. Even as restaurants reopened to diners, there was concern many people wouldn't be back, a feeling amplified by recent survey results in Canada showing a lot of people want to wait until a vaccine for the coronavirus is found.

However, the outdoor option for eating-in at the pedestrian mall has proven to be a big hit, and a lot of restaurants on Duckworth Street have added patios, including Piatto and Magnum & Steins. With two new decks, the latter was able to increase its capacity by 38.

"They've been working out very well for us," Fowler said, adding she's wanted to see more outdoor dining options in the downtown area for years.

"It's a great concept, and people love it."

Slow 2020

In a typical year, Magnum & Steins gets busier around May, with tourism activity keeping foot traffic healthy into early September.

"This next month, especially with having the decks there, we're hoping it's going to help us out a lot," said Fowler. "It is only one month, but we've got to remain positive and just persevere."

Meanwhile, Fowler and Vallis are hopeful an ongoing dialogue with the city through the fall and winter will result in a solid plan of action to further enhance the downtown eating and shopping experience for the summer of 2021. And Vallis is optimistic the Duckworth Street restaurants will come up with more collaborative projects in the future.

"Everyone I've spoken with about the Duckworth Dining wants to continue on," Vallis said, adding she would love to see more businesses get involved. "I love the sense of community that we're feeling up here now."

For more information about Duckworth Dining, visit www.duckworthdining.com or check out the Instagram account @duckworthdining.

[email protected]

@CBNAndrew

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