PORT BRUCE, ONT. -- For Port Bruce, Ont. it’s not just 2020 that’s been full of economic heartache. As everyone there will attest, the COVID-19 virus impacts all, but for Port Bruce it’s the third whammy.

The town’s main bridge collapsed in Feb. 2018, and a temporary bridge was not installed until six months later. The situation severely impacted beach, marina and cottage-related businesses through the summer of 2018, and gave them a knock in 2019.

With construction of the new bridge underway and major work at the pier along the beach, it was already shaping up to be an uncertain 2020.

Throw COVID-19 into the mix and Malahide Township Mayor Dave Mennill has great sympathy for locals.

”Well, these poor residents in these businesses down here were hurt when the bridge went out. And then it was almost six months later before we could put the temporary bridge in. So, that had an economic impact on the businesses and now with this virus, this is really a hard hit for this community.”

Darcy Taylor owns both Creekside Cottages & Creekside Fries. The bridge loss, and now its reconstruction, right next door, hurt the walk-up crowd at the fry counter in 2019.

Now he’s worried about the added impact of COVID-19 on his cottage rentals, “We don’t know what is going to go on. We’ve had a lot of cancellations already, but then again we have had a lot of people call and book. We are all waiting on Doug Ford."

Taylor says he still plans to open the fry stand soon, and is trying to stay optimistic about 2020, while keeping his sights on a much improved 2021 for Port Bruce.

“This year is gonna definitely be a down, but I think progress is gonna prevail and we will be fine next year."

The mayor has the same attitude, adding the bridge reconstruction project remains on target for a late 2020 completion.

Still, he admits he has to make a request that’s tough for Port Bruce business to hear, but in the wake of COVID-19 he feels he has no choice as health comes first.

“Stay home.”

That’s the plea for cottage, trailer and boat owners - who don’t already reside in the community - as the Victoria Day weekend approaches.

Mennill says he understands the municipality can’t officially stop people, but he reminds the visiting public that large gathering or overnight stays can prompt police response.

“So if they see beach parties, or crowds of 20-30 people, they will enforce the law. And I support that yes.”