'Storefronts will darken:' Yaletown businesses slam city decision to remove parking spots
Owner of new restaurant feels 'blindsided,' fears losing quarter of customers
It's a big day for Ivo Staiano.
The owner of Meet restaurant is celebrating the grand opening of its Yaletown location on Mainland Street.
But the special day is masked with uncertainty.
After he signed a 10-year-lease, Staiano found out that the city would be removing dozens of parking spots along a five-block stretch of Mainland and Hamilton streets to create better access for fire trucks.
"We did feel blindsided. We put a lot of money in this business," he said.
The city said it was approached by the fire department about the access issue last year, but the Yaletown Business Improvement Association said it wasn't informed of the plans until mid-January.
Staiano said if they had known of the city's plans while they were doing months of research, they may have chosen another location.
He estimates 25 per cent of his customers will be driving in from areas like Surrey and North Vancouver.
"I know I make my choices based on how easy it is to get in and out of the business. When it's pouring rain I will choose one business over the other," he said.
"We have two kids — herding them two to three blocks is usually a poor option," he said.
With restaurant profit margins so narrow, losing a quarter of their customer base could put them under, said Staiano.
Dozens of other Yaletown business owners expressed similar frustration during a public open house held by the city at the Roundhouse Community Centre on Thursday.
"It just ticks me off that there is no conversation. It's just: 'this is what is going to happen,'" said restaurant owner Iani Makris.
While the business owners say safety is their first priority, they argue there are other ways to free up space.
"We've proposed a couple of solutions to the city," said Annette O'Shea, executive director of the Yaletown Business Improvement Association.
The BIA has put up white crosses on parking meters in the neighbourhood to symbolize the threat to small businesses in the area.
"The city engineers, quite bluntly, are not listening. They're not willing to change their plan even a little," she said.
O'Shea suggests removing the parallel parking spots instead of the angled spots, or narrowing the sidewalks.
The city says neither of those solutions are viable, but it is in discussions with the BIA to reduce the number of spots being lost from 80 to 54.
It also has plans to add new spaces on other streets.
But parking spots blocks away aren't going to cut it, said O'Shea, especially for the 800 small businesses in the area — and services like medical clinics — whose customers may not be able to walk long distances, ride bikes or take public transit.
"If the parking leaves, the businesses will leave and the storefronts will darken. Nobody wants another dark street in Vancouver," said O'Shea.
With files from Jesse Johnston