Ottawa businesses located near a gaping sinkhole in the capital city’s core are feeling a slump in sales as reconstruction efforts divert customers.

The massive pit, located on Rideau Street just a few blocks from Parliament Hill, suddenly opened up last Wednesday. The sinkhole destroyed a vehicle, triggered a gas leak and caused several nearby buildings to be evacuated.

In total, 190 businesses in the area have since reopened, but five remain closed due to a water safety advisory.

Rebuilding efforts are now underway, but some local businesses say the sinkhole has seriously undercut their profits by as much as 40 per cent.

“There’s nobody, absolutely no buses, no traffic, nothing going on here,” said pizza shop owner Jad El Dabaghi.

El Dabaghi says his shop, Gabriel Pizza, is typically busy with orders. Now, his sales have dropped by at least a third.

“It’s affected us a lot,” he said.

It’s a similar story at Tucker’s Marketplace in the ByWard Market, where servers are struggling to rake in tips.

“They’re still working their 12 to 14 hours a day, but the fruits of their labour is not being reaped. And that is a shame,” said Tom Hughes, general manager of Tucker’s Marketplace restaurant.

City takes action

The City of Ottawa has taken steps to bring customers to the businesses. Free shuttle buses are being offered to the downtown area from three stops over the next two Sundays, and 200 parking spots at a city-operated ByWard Market parking garage will be made free for two hours per vehicle from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

In addition, a city councillor for the area says reconstruction crews are working around the clock.

“I know that our crews are working, as the mayor said, 24-7 to do whatever they can to get back to normalcy along Rideau Street, and they’re working closely with those five (closed) businesses to get them re-established,” said city councillor Mathieu Fleury.

But some businesses say that isn’t enough to stimulate much-needed traffic.

“Just two hours – that is a very short time,” El Dabaghi said.

Hughes says he plans to keep the city accountable as reconstruction continues.

“We want the mayor to continue with the councillor (council?) to move forward and not just make this a one-off event. And that’s what we’re going to try to hold our city to,” Hughes said.

With a report from CTV Ottawa