Farmers' market shuts down early to avoid anti-lockdown protest

·3 min read
Péché Fumé owner Fabienne Côté has been selling her smoked fish at the York Street Farmers' Market this spring. She says she's been closing an hour early because an anti-lockdown protest that culminates on York Street has made it difficult to shut her stall down safely. (Kimberley Molina/CBC - image credit)
Péché Fumé owner Fabienne Côté has been selling her smoked fish at the York Street Farmers' Market this spring. She says she's been closing an hour early because an anti-lockdown protest that culminates on York Street has made it difficult to shut her stall down safely. (Kimberley Molina/CBC - image credit)

A downtown Ottawa farmers' market says an anti-lockdown protest calling on the government to allow businesses to reopen is having the opposite effect, forcing vendors to close early and lose out on their most profitable hour.

The York Street Farmers' Market is a new initiative by Ottawa Markets to provide local farmers and producers with outdoor stands in the ByWard Market from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m. every Saturday between May and early October.

Since it launched earlier this month, however, the last hour has coincided with a regular protest against COVID-19 restrictions that culminates on York Street.

This Saturday, the approximately two dozen vendors packed up an hour early.

When large numbers of people crowd onto York Street, it can prevent vendors from being able to pack up safely, said Zachary Dayler, executive director of Ottawa Markets.

"By taking away their highest-earning sales hour, you're actually hurting small business," Dayler said.

"You're really not helping us build back in a sustainable way," he added. "The longer this goes on, the longer these types of measures are going to be in place."

Lexie Parker, who co-owns The Little Green Farm, also packed up early Saturday to avoid the protest.
Lexie Parker, who co-owns The Little Green Farm, also packed up early Saturday to avoid the protest. (Kimberley Molina/CBC)

'Quite a bit to lose'

For Péché Fumé owner Fabienne Côté, that last hour accounts for a significant portion of the day's sales.

"We set up for like five hours, so losing an hour of market is quite a bit to lose.... I would say [I lose] 15, 20 per cent market sales, for sure."

Lexie Parker, co-owner of The Little Green Farm, echoed that sentiment.

"As farmers, we work all week, but we only come to the market one day a week. So one whole hour of sales missed can change a lot for us — especially if it's every single week," Parker said.

"It just makes me really sad, because whatever we don't sell at this market, it's not as easy to just sell it somewhere else."

Last Saturday, approximately 600 protesters ended up on York Street, a release from Ottawa Markets stated, while police estimated attendance at around 500.

This Saturday, CBC/Radio-Canada counted significantly fewer protesters, around 150, who were on a portion of one side of York Street.

They carried signs with slogans like "Human rights are not optional," "We are all essential," and "Communism is the real virus. I do not consent."

Some of the roughly 150 anti-lockdown and anti-mask protesters who gathered on York Street Saturday.
Some of the roughly 150 anti-lockdown and anti-mask protesters who gathered on York Street Saturday.(Olivier Plante/Radio-Canada)

While people have a right to protest, Rideau-Vanier Coun. Mathieu Fleury said the Saturday anti-lockdown protests are having the opposite effect than what's intended.

"It's unfortunate. I think among some who protest, they want reopening of businesses — yet they have major impacts on some of the businesses in the area," he said.

'Their actions are impacting businesses and closing more [of them] by gathering in the ByWard Market."

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