Le Marché St. George: Vancouver community rallies to save beloved corner store
City says business is zoned as a grocery store, not an eating establishment
A much-loved corner grocery store and café in Mount Pleasant could be forced to close due to zoning restrictions, prompting its customers to rally in its defence.
Le Marché St. George near Fraser Street and East 28th Avenue sits on a quiet residential street in East Vancouver, selling a small selection of foods from its shelves like artisanal olive oils, kale chips, and organic tea.
But the store also acts as a café, which it's not zoned or licenced to do. Le Marché serves coffee, crepes and croissants to a small assortment of clientele who sit at small tables or spill out onto its sidewalk patio — which it has a licence to operate.
"We're allowed to sell porn magazines, cigarettes, lotto tickets, no problem — but I'm not allowed to sell a crepe," said Le Marché St. George co-owner Pascal Roy.
"The city licenses brothels, they license pot shops, and I'm going to get closed down because I'm selling quiche."
According to an online petition to save Le Marché St. George, more than 6,000 people agree with Roy, and want the establishment to remain as is.
"This is such a beautiful safe haven for the community to come and talk, and buy things, and get a meal, and enjoy each other's company," said customer Mark Kinskofer, sitting outside on the café`s make-shift patio.
Business could shut down
If the business is no longer allowed to operate as a café as well as a grocery store, said Roy, he will be forced to shut down.
Roy said his business' food-serving operations, which have been happily in place for five years, are now at risk because of a complaint from a single neighbour.
Deborah Fong, a legally blind woman who lives close by, said she struggles to get by the bric-a-brac strewn across the sidewalk in front of the café.
"It is very stressful for me to walk down the sidewalk next to where I live and bump into chairs, and strollers, and bikes, and kids' toys," said Fong.
"All I'm asking is to have the sidewalk clear and accessible for me and for all the other pedestrians that need a clear sidewalk."
Roy said the call to City Hall led to a visit from city inspectors, who discovered the cafe is not allowed to operate as such.
The City of Vancouver declined to discuss the matter over the phone or on camera, but a spokesperson did say that the business can continue to operate, pending an inspection on Friday.
"They are currently licensed for retail grocer," said a spokesperson with the City of Vancouver in a written statement.
"As it is currently zoned RS-1, they would likely require a rezoning to allow a restaurant/café (where food is served) to operate."
With files from Belle Puri