Coronavirus: Penticton community market vendors demand full refund after cancellation

A dispute is brewing between community market vendors and the Downtown Penticton Association (DPA) over refunds in the wake of the event’s cancellation.

Some vendors who paid the $850 stall fee in advance to secure their spot have been informed they will receive a 50 per cent refund, or the fees can be rolled over to the 2021 season.

The annual community market, a separate entity from the nearby farmer’s market, often draws crowds of 5,000 people or more on Saturdays, said the Downtown Penticton Association (DPA).

But its board of directors decided to cancel the event due to COVID-19 concerns.

Kevin Dunn of Okanagan Wildbrush Honey said a full refund should be issued to the pre-paid vendors.

“As market vendors, we stand united in our disappointment of the current ultimatum presented by the DPA regarding the choice of either a refund or rollover,” Dunn said in an email addressed to the DPA, along with Karen Casper of Casper’s Corner.

“We were told a vendor delegation would be included in a productive dialogue once the board had met again. We intend for this to happen and are setting a meeting time for Monday, May 4, 11 a.m. in front of the Peach. Social distancing will be adhered to. Please bring a chair and a cup of coffee,” the pair wrote.

Trevor Guerard, president of the DPA, previously told Global News that the organization relies on the revenues generated by the community market to fund other events and cover staff time and insurance costs.

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Dunn said vendors should have been consulted before a decision was announced.

“Many Penticton Community Market vendors cannot afford to have their money tied up. Some have double or triple market stalls, leaving several thousand dollars tied up with an organization they are beginning not to trust,” the market vendors said in a media release.

“Most importantly, however, the Penticton Community Market Vendors feel they have been left out of the dialogue altogether. These vendors bring in a good part of the DPA’s yearly operating budget and feel they should have a voice.”

Lynn Allin, the DPA’s executive director, said in an email to Dunn and Casper on Sunday that the organization will not attend their meeting scheduled on Monday.

“The board of directors have taken every measure possible to minimize expenses and are refunding as much as possible to vendors without threatening either the future of the Community Market or services to membership,” Allin said.

The association has launched an online shopping marketplace involving downtown businesses. The website can be found here. 

Meanwhile, the Penticton Farmers’ Market, a separate entity, successfully held its first drive-thru pickup on Saturday. Orders for fresh produce can be made online here.

On March 26, B.C.’s Ministry of Health designated farmers’ markets as essential food and agriculture service providers, but vendors of non-food items and other merchandise are prohibited to sell at the events.

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