Only three skaters were skating at the Sens Rink of Dreams on Friday afternoon. A change room visible in the back is reserved for emergency use only. (Photo by Zachary Delaney)

OTTAWA – Skating season officially kicked off at noon Friday as the rink in front of Ottawa City Hall was thrown open to the public. 

But just three skaters took to the ice as the rain fell on Friday afternoon at the Sens Rink of Dreams. After about 10 minutes, Joshua Finn was the only one left. After half an hour on the ice, he took his skates off for the day. 

“[The ice] was a little wet, but not too bad,” said Finn.

Business owners in the downtown area, like Christa Blaszczyk of Boogie and Birdie, are looking forward to the increased traffic. Hit by the pandemic, foot traffic along Elgin Street has slowed to a trickle due to public health restrictions and construction. But Blaszczyk said it’s not uncommon to see patrons with their skates looking around her boutique during the winter.

“We always see an uptick of people who are on the canal or the Rink of Dreams,” said Blaszczyk.

Cafés are also welcoming foot traffic to help combat the decrease in customers since the beginning of the pandemic. 

Alex Dhavernas, a part owner of Ministry of Coffee, says their café saw a drop in their customer base at the onset of the pandemic. 

A significant portion of their patrons were employees in the downtown core. Now, as some restrictions have eased, Dhavernas says they are seeing some of their regulars return.

Grey, rainy skies for the Sens Rink of Dreams opening at Ottawa City Hall on Dec 4. Photo by Zachary Delaney.

For any small business, every bit counts. Dhavernas hopes that his café will reap the rewards of skating season. 

“We’ll take what we can get,” said Dhavernas. 

Craig MacLeod, part owner of Manhattan’s Coffee Co., echoed Dhavernas’s sentiments. 

“Any extra tourism in the area will completely bump us up,” says MacLeod. 

In the past several months, competitors in the area, including large franchises like Starbucks, have closed their doors.