A popular street market won’t return to Sidney’s Beacon Avenue because of what organizers call uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We cannot assume that large events held in a space where crowds cannot be controlled, will be allowed by the public health officer,” said Laurie McDermid, owner of Westcoast Impressions and Darren Westwood, market manager, in a letter to council. “In addition, there is construction and other initiatives taking place on Beacon Avenue that may impact the market footprint and cause safety concerns.”
Accordingly, the market plans to return to its 2021 location, the parking lot of the Mary Winspear Centre. “Our experience in this location during 2021 was highly successful and we have the utmost confidence that the Sidney Street Market, held on its usual day and time will also see great success,” they said.
The market has historically run from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. along a stretch on Beacon Avenue between Fifth and First avenues closed off to vehicles on Thursday nights from mid-May to the end of August. The market last year operated Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. from May 9 to Oct. 10 after being cancelled in 2020.
Council considered the issue after market organizers essentially asked the municipality to release them from their obligation to operate on Beacon Avenue by extending last year’s memorandum of understanding allowing Westcoast Impressions to undertake a modified market on private property.
Chief administrative officer Randy Humble said staff favoured the request given the current pandemic situation. Against the backdrop of the pandemic, it would be much easier to operate the market on private property, he said. Even limited public health restrictions would require staff to invest significant time and resources to ensure that the market comes off without a hitch, he said.
“To be clear, this would simply be for the 2022 market season, in light of our current situation,” said Humble in responding to questions from Coun. Terri O’Keeffe about the long term future of the market. “Given the pandemic, it’s really, really, really challenging to determine where we are going to be in January, February, March and ultimately in the spring.”
Mayor Cliff McNeil said the municipality is not giving the market approval to operate out of the Mary Winspear parking lot. “That’s a separate agreement, with Mary Winspear, whereas we are releasing them from operating a market on Beacon Avenue.”
Council’s vote in favour of granting Westcoast Impression’s request was unanimous and did not impact the length of the agreement with the operator currently running through 2024.
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