Tanger Outlets seeks city's OK to open on stat holidays

The owners of Tanger Outlets are seeking permission to open on most statutory holidays, arguing that the popular Kanata shopping mall deserves the designation due to its proximity to visitor attractions such as the Canadian Tire Centre and Bell Sensplex.

RioCan, which owns the facility on Campeau Drive, is asking the city to allow all stores in the complex to open on New Year’s Day, Family Day, Victoria Day, Canada Day, Labour Day and Thanksgiving Day, according to a staff report slated to be presented at a finance and economic development committee meeting next Tuesday.

Although the Retail Business Holidays Act is a provincial statute, it’s up to municipalities to grant exemptions under the legislation. In order to qualify, businesses must be within two kilometres of a site that’s been deemed a tourist attraction and at least 25 per cent of the stores in the area must rely on tourists for business on statutory holidays.

City staff are recommending that RioCan’s request be granted, arguing “there is enough justification to support the required criteria for such an exemption.” They also suggest the change could help kickstart the area’s economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

The report notes that three sites that meet the province’s tourist attraction criteria ​– the Canadian Tire Centre, the Bell Sensplex and the Thunderbird Sports Centre, the city’s only lighted nine-hole golf course ​– are within two kilometres of Tanger Outlets. More than a quarter of businesses in the mall “are directly reliant on the tourists that visit the nearby attractions and bus tours that come to the mall,” staff say.

“Such an exemption presents economic development opportunities for the local retail sector, and ancillary businesses such as hotels and restaurants, which support the advancement of Ottawa’s tourism economy,” the report adds, noting RioCan’s bid is backed by organizations such as Ottawa Tourism and the Ottawa Board of Trade.

“Staff agree that, considering the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the challenges that it brings to the tourism and retail economies, the exemption bylaw would also help provide economic recovery assistance to the Tanger Outlets and, by extension, the local economy.”

According to the report, Tanger Outlets draws about 4.2 million visitors annually and employs 1,200 people during non-peak shopping periods. Staff say the mall attracts “many shoppers from outside the City of Ottawa, including eastern Ontario, the Ottawa Valley and western Quebec, indicating Tanger’s status as a regional draw.”

Under provincial law, certain businesses ​– including small convenience stores and pharmacies, restaurants and gas stations ​– are already allowed to remain open on statutory holidays.

In addition, seven other designated spots in Ottawa – the airport, the Sparks Street Mall, the ByWard Market, Downtown Rideau and Glebe BIAs as well as the Rideau Centre and the Loblaws on Rideau Street – have been granted exemptions allowing shopping on statutory holidays. The airport is allowed to remain open on all statutory holidays, while the other sites must close on Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Christmas Day. 

Should the committee give the recommendation the green light next week, it will go to full council for approval on Sept. 9.