Homecoming presents challenges for local Kingston businesses

Chamber of Commerce says Queen’s students are ‘crucial’ to Kingston economy

Alumni and students bring business to Kingston.
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Kingston’s local businesses encountered positive sales combined with “challenging” customers during Queen’s Homecoming last weekend.

Restaurants in downtown Kingston, such as Chez Piggy, said they see increased sales from students, alumni, and families affiliated with Queen’s during events like Homecoming and convocation flocking to restaurants to celebrate.

“Homecoming, convocations, high school graduations [...] are a busy time for us and definitely impact our sales positively,” Lisa Winn, general manager of Chez Piggy, said in a statement to The Journal.

Chez Piggy has a diverse group of “devotees,” including generations of families who celebrate at the restaurant. Winn said most of their customers are respectful, but some larger alumni groups can be oddly misbehaved or rude with staff.

“Homecoming might be one of the more challenging times, as the behavior of the mob, local and visiting, can sometimes be daunting,” she said.

The restaurant now places a limit on the number of guests permitted for group reservations during Homecoming weekend.

Karen Cross, CEO of the Greater Kingston Chamber of Commerce, said the behaviour of groups of people impacts the entire community during Homecoming.

“Homecoming is a particularly busy time for our local hotels and restaurants,” Cross said in a statement to The Journal.

Cross recognized the “crucial role” students from Queen’s, St. Lawrence College, and the Royal Military College play in Kingston’s economy.

“Students can help our local businesses recover when they choose to shop local, and not just within the University District,” she said. “[Students] play an important role in working at some of our local businesses.”

The federal government recently removed the limit on how many hours international students can work off campus—which Cross said the Chamber of Commerce fully supports.

The post-pandemic business environment of high borrowing costs and inflation make it hard to recover from losses caused by COVID-19, according to Cross.

Many businesses in Kingston are seasonal and tourism-driven, making them ineligible for government support programs during the pandemic.

“The pandemic hit many businesses hard and they're still feeling the effects today. Many had to take on debt to keep their doors open,” she continued.

Anecdotally, Cross said restaurants, personal services, and retail businesses interact with students mostly as their employees and customers.

Students work closely with businesses and Kingston’s public sector in placements, internship, or entry-level jobs—in some cases, remaining in Kingston after graduation.

“I encourage students during their time at Queen's to explore all that Kingston has to offer,” Cross said. “We hope to work more closely with Queen's and St. Lawrence students in 2023 to help them find jobs and grow their networks locally during their studies.”

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