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Le Marche St. George in danger of being closed down: is it the owner’s fault?


Yesterday I wrote a piece on one of my favourite local cafes, Le Marche St. George. Recently, due to a neighbour complaint, the City of Vancouver paid a visit to the artisan shop and cafe. Although, the store owners have a permit to avail of the outdoor space for seating, what it appears they don’t have in order is a permit to operate their business as a cafe/restaurant. Unfortunately, because the City has now opened a file on the case, the cafe is in danger of being closed down.

At first, when I read about this I was outraged and thought what a grouch of a neighbour for complaining in the first place. What I have since learned is that this neighbour is legally blind. She has been finding it hard for some time to navigate the pathway outside of the cafe due to the chairs and strollers and toys that are often strewn around. In my opinion, the neighbour could have taken a different approach from calling the City. I am certain if she did, indeed, try to deal with the cafe owners personally she may have been able to resolve her issues (the owners are kind people – I’ve met them). However, the predicament they are in now are not exactly due to “the complaints of a single neighbour.” Nope. They are in danger of having their business shut down because they do not have the proper licenses in place to operate as they are.

Le Marche St. George is located in a small retail space with living quarters above. The cafe sells food goods from local farmers, growers and producers. This is all good and they are within their rights to do so as a “convenience store”. However, their license does not permit them to serve food and beverages, operate pop up shops, host fundraisers and many of the other (amazing) things they do. Bottom line – Le Marche St. George does not have a cafe/restaurant license – but have been operating as such for the last five years or so…I guess one could say – illegally.

On the petition to “Save Le Marche St. George” it reads:

“Unfortunately, due to outdated city by-laws defining what a “neighbourhood grocery store” is, we cannot be who we are and who we’ve been for the past 5 years. Help us change the city’s mind and show them what these kinds of places mean to their neighbourhoods and communities!”

Yes. I agree the by-laws are outdated and that the cafe is amazing and should be part of the community and it will be a huge loss if they are not able to continue operating as they do. Nevertheless, I wonder why the owners didn’t try to “change the city’s mind” about the way their store could run ahead of operating outside of their permits? As a business owner myself, I realize permits (outdated or not) are in place for a reason. Although sometimes archaic, they ensure that businesses are running at a standard approved by the City. An establishment serving food, for example, would be subject to regular health and safety inspections and employees would be required to have Food Safe training. As a customer, this provides a level of assurance that food quality and safety guidelines are being met. I would assume there is also some liability protection for the owner. Finally, there is the question of fairness to those other cafe owners who go through the proper channels and red tape to run their businesses in line with City regulations.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that although I would be personally devestated to see this local gem of an establishment closed, I can see that the owners were operating on borrowed time. Each day that they opened their doors without proper permits was a gamble…one they were, obviously willing to take, but one that may now cost them their livelihood. What really sucks is that, on any given day, you can take a venture downtown and see people illegally hawking all kinds of crap, but the law is going to come down on a nice couple who are making crepes and coffee for their neighbours. THAT is where I get pissed off.

I truly hope there is a good outcome here.

If you wish to support Le Marche St. George, sign the petition and/or call the City of Vancouver directly at 604-873-7621

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3 thoughts on “Le Marche St. George in danger of being closed down: is it the owner’s fault?

  1. denise on said:

    There is one thing for certain, and it is that the City of Vancouver makes it VERY difficult for small businesses to operate due to zoning regulation and other bylaws. I have operated a startup myself, and helped over a dozen friends do the same. And every time, it has been hell. The City has killed more startups and mom&pop shops than they will ever admit. I sympathize with the owners of Le Marche, they must have been so stressed every day they opened their doors, thinking about the consequences. I am certain too that they tried everything in their power to change the City’s mind. It’s never anyone’s first choice to operate illegally.

  2. Carol quinn on said:

    Just heard on CBC that they will not be shut down. The mayor, himself, said that city hall will work with the Marche to resolve whatever problems exist

  3. Richard on said:

    It’s not an issue of permits, it’s an issue of archaic zoning. There’s nothing the owners could have done differently other than try to rezone their property. Application fee for a rezoning is currently $32,000 and scheduled to increase significantly from this Jan 1st. Not to mention additional tens of thousands that they would have to spend on architects and consultants to get the rezoning done.

    The city needs to update the list of permitted uses currently written into their C-1 bylaw where most of these old c-stores are found.

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