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Toronto retailers forced to close doors during power outage in downtown core

The Bay Street Financial District is shown next to the CN Tower in Toronto on Friday, August 5, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

TORONTO — Retailers in Toronto's downtown core had to close for business on Thursday afternoon as a power outage affected security and payment systems throughout the financial district.

Shoppers Drug Mart and Tim Hortons locations on King Street East had signs on their doors saying they were closed due to the outage. Patios along The Esplanade, usually full of customers enjoying the sun, were empty as people moved through the affected area.

Anna Spencer, pastry chef at XO Bisous on Adelaide Street East, said at first she thought she'd caused the outage because she blew a breaker in the shop moments before the power went out.

The bakery couldn't use its machine for debit or credit purchases, reverting to cash in the early part of the outage before deciding to close for the day.

Spencer said the biggest issue is the loss of power for their fridges, adding that staff was trying to conserve the cool air by keeping the doors closed as much as possible.

If the power outage lasts overnight, she said they could lose a few days' worth of work because the food would go bad.

Even if the outage only lasted until this evening, she said they could lose at least a couple of hundred dollars' worth of products.

Like XO Bisous, some stores weren't able to process electronic payments and posted signs that they were accepting cash only.

Merchants who use Square may have had the option of accepting some transactions, Giovana Chichito said, because the system includes an offline mode. She said they hadn't heard directly from any clients about problems due to the power outage.

Interac said its services were functioning as normal, though merchants in affected areas would be affected by the power outage.

Traffic slowed to a crawl in the affected area as traffic lights went dark, making it difficult for vehicles to get from Point A to Point B and delaying deliveries.

Though the power outage included Bay Street, where many of Canada's largest companies are headquartered, some financial workers were able to get their jobs done.

Toronto's main stock exchange was open for trading Thursday afternoon. TMX Group spokeswoman Catherine Kee said its trading systems were not impacted by the outage because its power systems are backed up.

Two downtown Royal Bank of Canada branches were closed Thursday afternoon due to the power outage, with clients being redirected to the nearest branches, said spokesman Rafael Ruffolo.

Hydro One said it is working to restore power as quickly as possible.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 11, 2022.

— With files from Tara Deschamps and Kayla Goodfield

Adena Ali, The Canadian Press

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