Vendors still waiting for refunds 4 months after 'chaotic' waterfront summer market
Arts and crafts vendors say the event organizers went silent in early October
Arts and crafts vendors who encountered "chaotic" conditions during this summer's ill-fated Waterfront Night Market say they're still waiting for refunds that were promised by the organizers.
The market, which marked its eighth anniversary in August, was moved for the first time to the decommissioned Hearn Generating Station in the port lands.
Vendors taking part in the new "ARTvolution" interactive showcase signed up for spaces inside, but those plans were dashed after Toronto Fire deemed the building unsafe.
On opening night, they were moved to a gravel parking lot, but vendors said they were not provided with any tents, lighting or assistance from organizer X-Caliber Productions — and then the rain started to fall.
"It was just one big cluster bomb from the beginning," said Tim Miuccio of The Wellness Den, which sells homemade candles. "They took our trust and put it in the trash."
After vendors scrambled to protect their goods from the rain, several approached the organizers to demand a full refund of $604.55 for the spaces they'd booked.
Those businesses said an organizer promised and signed an agreement that the refunds would be paid, but nearly four months later, they have no indication the money is coming.
X-Caliber Productions CEO Kevin Yee has not responded to an interview request from CBC Toronto.
"I won't deny it. It was absolutely chaotic," he said in August after the market's rough opening night.
'Serious deficiencies' inside Hearn
Business owners said they were drawn to the market in part due to its track record and promise of strong attendance — perhaps topping 120,000, according to organizers.
"I assumed that they knew what they were doing," said Sofie Timkovski, who sells leather goods through her company Tiny Backpacks.
Timkovski said she also signed up because of the promised spot inside the Hearn building.
The abandoned power plant hosted a Luminato event in 2016, but Toronto Fire said the safety measures put in place for that event were taken out after it wrapped up.
Inspectors found what they described as "serious deficiencies and breaches of the Ontario Fire Code" inside the structure just a day before the night market was scheduled to begin.
"When all the fire safety stuff came out, our question was: 'Is this a surprise?"' Miuccio remembered asking. "Did [the organizers] not realize there were fire safety standards and codes of conduct that you have to abide by?"
Both Miuccio and Timkovski say they have not received any correspondence from X-Caliber Productions since early October.
Timkovski has since launched a small-claims lawsuit against the company claiming damages of $25,000.
She said she's also learned a lesson to pass on to fellow arts and craft vendors.
"Don't send money until you're fully satisfied," she said.