Council in Richmond, B.C., has given the city's night market the go-ahead to welcome back customers this summer — but as public health guidelines and rules following "circuit-breaker" restrictions in B.C. remain unclear, so do plans for the market's opening.
The Richmond Night Market, one of the largest outdoor markets in North America, has been closed since November 2019. It never had the chance to operate in 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic was declared a month before the market planned to open for the season.
During that time, organizer and founder Raymond Cheung has paid thousands of dollars in rent and utilities. He also endured a loss on inventory, equipment and other costs that had already been taken on ahead of the planned 2020 market.
Cheung described the past 15 months as "the most difficult time" he's had since he started the market 21 years ago.
"It's like you just really want to cry," Cheung told CBC's On the Coast host Gloria Macarenko. "Like you have this piece of land sitting there and everything is ready, but you just can't do anything."
He said because of the seasonal nature of his business, the market wasn't eligible for grants and other funding from the government to help keep the business afloat. For that reason, he isn't sure the night market will qualify for funding announced this week for tourism attractions and businesses in B.C., even though Cheung said he gets over a million visitors each year between May and October.
On Thursday, B.C. Premier John Horgan announced that plans for a post-circuit breaker summer would be released Tuesday, after the May long weekend. That means the market can't move forward with plans for an opening date, capacity or food service until next week, at the earliest.
Cheung said he realizes the government can't hand out money all the time, but hopes they will allow his business and others like it to reopen, soon.
"We have to rebuild our market. We have to [rebuild] our confidence. The vendors, we have to rebuild their confidence as well," Cheung said.
"We need to be open as soon as possible. And I think this is really the thing that we are looking forward to."
To hear Raymond Cheung's interview on On the Coast, click here: