Police cracking down on controversial car meets at south Edmonton parking lot

Edmonton police are no longer allowing car enthusiasts to gather in the United Sport and Cycle parking lot off Gateway Boulevard.

Businesses have complained for years about noise, litter and stunting on private property

Edmonton police say car enthusiasts are no longer welcome to gather at a United Cycle parking lot. (Madeleine Cummings/CBC)

Edmonton police are taking steps to end controversial car meetings that have occurred for years in the United Sport and Cycle parking lot off Gateway Boulevard.

Last Friday and Saturday evenings, the private parking lot between 76th Avenue and 78th Avenue was barricaded off and police turned car meet drivers away.

The enforcement comes after years of complaints from local businesses.

Decades ago, car enthusiasts were welcome to use the sports store's parking lot, said David Barker, who manages properties for the Bots family, which owns United Cycle and United Centre Properties.

"They would come and sweep the lots and just show their old cars," he said.

The scene has changed since then, he said, with the parking lot becoming a hub for dangerous driving, excessive noise that can set off store alarms, pavement damage, drug and alcohol use and litter.

Old Strathcona Antique Mall co-owner Betty Reitan, who leases a section of the lot, said the gatherings attract hundreds of people and cause problems for her business.

"You could spend an hour at least picking up the trash," she said.

Video footage has shown people urinating and stunting in the parking lot.

Reitan recalled that less than a week after George Floyd was killed, two drivers arrived at the gathering with large Confederate flags installed on their pickup trucks.

"As a business, the optics are horrible," she said. 

When she asked drivers to leave, they swore and insulted her, she said. One attendee asked what her problem was and if she was having her period.

Police responding to rise in car meet problems

Edmonton Police Service acting Sgt. Mark Woronuk said police are responding now at the request of property owners and after noticing a recent increase in disruption to public safety, disorder and mess related to the car meets.

Woronuk said the decision to permanently relocate the meets was not an easy one.

"A lot of us on the EPS are car enthusiasts ourselves, so we understand there's a deep-rooted history with these car clubs," he said.

Woronuk said most attendees are good people but a few "bad apples" have become involved in recent years, ruining the gatherings for everyone.

Meet organizer: police presence 'doesn't stop anything'

Danny Najjar, who has been organizing car meets in the parking lot for more than a decade, said police presence in the parking lot is nothing new.

"It doesn't stop anything," he said. "We just move on to the next site."

Najjar said car enthusiasts in Edmonton have only a short period of time to enjoy their "toys" in the summer.

"If you have to deal with a little bit of noise, it is what it is," he told CBC last month in an interview about vehicle noise.

Listen to Kashmala Fida's report on vehicle noise

For car enthusiasts in Edmonton, it's fast and furious: Prairie-city edition. Except in this case cops are after them for loud noise. Not a heist. Radio Active's Kashmala Fida will have more from loud car enthusiasts and those who loathe them. 5:32

Woronuk said police have frequented the car meets for years but this is the first time EPS has pursued the long-term goal to permanently stop the meets at this location.

"We're not trying to shut them down but we need to … relocate them off that property for the sake of regaining order in that area, and bring the safety level and the noise complaints and everything back down to what is acceptable," he said.