Toronto

Caribbean Carnival runs afoul of vendors

The leader of a group of vegan chefs is complaining that Toronto Caribbean Carnival executives tripled the price of booths near the route of the annual parade with little warning last month.

Price for booths tripled in one month, vendors say

Karen Pringle, owner of Hummingbird Personal Chef Services, says she's owed $800 by the organizers of the Toronto Caribbean Carnival. (Kelda Yuen/CBC)

The leader of a group of vegan chefs is complaining that Toronto Caribbean Carnival executives tripled the price of booths near the route of the annual parade with little warning last month.

Joe Thomas, of Black Vegans of Toronto, said festival organizers have now doubled down, refusing to refund the $800 fee paid by the two vegan chefs who signed up for booths before the price began to climb.

As a result, Thomas said he's lost all faith in the festival's current leadership and will "absolutely not" work with them again.

"I'm totally surprised and disappointed," Thomas said. "I would like them to refund my vendors their money because if they don't they're going to have me on their back all the time."

But Festival Management Committee, which oversees the running of the Toronto Caribbean Carnival, told a different story to CBC Toronto Tuesday.

Joe Thomas, left, of Black Vegans of Toronto, chats with Karen Pringle in Regent Park on Saturday, July 20. The two say they're disappointed in organizers of the Toronto Caribbean Carnival, who they say tripled the cost to vegan vendors along the Aug. 3 parade route, an accusation that festival organizers deny. (Michael Aitkens/CBC)

The group's chief operations officer, Chris Alexander, denied that refunds are being withheld.

He said the problems began when Black Vegans of Toronto didn't deliver the number of chefs it had promised.

"They approached us...and said, 'we want to bring a vegan village into the festival and we have 30-odd vendors we can bring,'" Alexander said. "They brought in two vendors."

Alexander said the regular price of a booth at the festival is $1,800. Thomas's group was only offered a discount because they had said so many vendors would be taking part. But when only two signed up, "we can't do this deal anymore," Alexander said.

Chris Alexander, chief operations officer of Festival Management Committee, the organization that runs the Toronto Caribbean Carnival, said vegan chefs who paid a deposit for a booth at the carnival will get full refunds. (Kelda Yuen/CBC)

But Thomas denied there had been any formal agreement to deliver a set number of vendors for the village.

One of those vendors, Karen Pringle, who owns Brampton-based Hummingbird Personal Chef Services, said she has been trying for weeks to get back the $800 she paid for a booth, without success.

She said she was originally told that the vegan village would be set up in Marilyn Bell Park, along the route of the Aug. 3 parade, and that she'd be charged $600 by the festival to operate her booth.

'Colourful words'

But when she submitted paperwork to the festival in mid-June, she learned that price had jumped to $800 — which she paid in late June.

Another shock came in the first week of July: She was told the price had jumped again, this time to $1,800.

"Then I used colourful words and I was like, 'no — it's not going to work for me like that.'"

She said she told the festival she wanted a refund on July 5, but did not receive a response to several calls or emails until July 12, at which point she was told it would take two weeks to process her refund.

She said she is still waiting. Alexander said her refund will be forthcoming.

"We would never keep her money," he said. "There's no reason to do that."