No way, Sparks Street BIA!

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What’s the best way make a shopping mall better? Get rid of the best stores, of course! You know, the ones that the customers are going to! After all, they draw the sales away from the rest of the stores.

It’s Friday evening, it’s beautiful outside, but today a news story came out that was so absurd I had to write something. The Sparks Street BIA is forcing food vendors to stop selling hot food in its Thursday and Friday market days, claiming that “it provides direct competition for restaurants along Sparks Street”, according to the CBC article.

Why is this a completely ridiculous decision?

  1. The restaurants along Sparks Street are mediocre. Of course the food vendors are taking away their business; they are better. That’s the nature of capitalism and the free market. If you are losing market share, it’s because your product isn’t competitive. The solution to this is for the restaurants to improve their product – not to ham-handedly clamp down on the competition.
  2. Sparks Street is clamouring to improve its traffic. At night and on weekends, it’s a desolate, depressing place. If there are vendors that provide a product that people actually want, it draws more traffic to the mall. Individual restaurants might make get a smaller piece of the pie, but if the pie gets larger, the mall benefits.
  3. The restaurants that can’t stay in business don’t deserve to stay in business. They should give up that space for someone that can make better use of it. Maybe it will be one of the food vendors, who got their start on Thursdays and Fridays and turn it into a year-round affair.
  4. The vendors made a deal with the mall. The signed up in good faith, made a contract to rent the space, and now Sparks Street, at least according to the articles, is prohibiting them from selling hot foods, in effect shutting them down.

If Sparks Street can become a place where people know that the standards are higher for food, and that there is stiff competition, it gives them a reason to go out of their way to go to there. The restaurants there have been taking the easy way of captive tourist dollars for too long, and have simply gotten used to their tired old dusty, lazy ways. Others saw the opportunity and took it. This shouldn’t be a reason to punish them.

One of the reasons that I’m so upset is that I want Sparks Street to work. We need urban people places that are alive and thriving, that are pedestrian-friendly and also bike-friendly. This is the way of the future as many cities around the world close down streets to cars in their down town cores to the benefit of all. Unfortunately, time and time again, it seems that Sparks Street just gets it wrong, and this decision is one of those – big time.

I sent an email to the BIA, and if they respond I’ll update my post here.

Update! It’s a week later and no response from the BIA. On the other hand, there is no more market at all. The vendors all packed up and left in solidarity with the food vendors. According to a comment from one of the vendors,

Today was horrible:( They pulled all market signs down, made only two spots available for vendors to park ( or they would be ticketed) and wasted the health departments time by reporting us all! The poor inspector looked totally lost!... What a waste of his time... All to try and get rid of us! Well they diid it!

What do you think?

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