Chinatown Night Market cancelled this year despite 2013 success

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      Despite a successful reinvention last year with live shows and events, the Chinatown Night Market has been cancelled this year. Normally, it would have launched mid-May.

      The Vancouver Chinatown Merchants Association director Henry Tom told the Straight by phone today that his organization is taking a break from the two-decade-old event for 2014, mostly due to the daunting costs of having to set it up and strike it down every day.

      Last year program director Ken Tsui and managing director Tannis Ling (of Chinatown's Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie) helped curate a market that found outdoor Ping Pong matches, live music and dancing,  an outdoor cinema,  hip-hop karaoke, a mah-jong social, a dumpling festival, and more hip happenings taking place amid the colourful rows of food and goods stalls.

      "Everybody came to the table last year; we had the help of some young people who put on a great event and there were a lot of sponsors. We got a great turnout and they got really great programming that brought out the crowds and different crowds too. But that was not enough to get us over the hump," Tom said.

      Tom added the event has lost vendors to the popular Richmond night market. The logistics and costs of setting up there are less, Tom says, because it takes place in a fenced-off area where booths can be left installed.

      "We are going to re-evaluate and hopefully it can be saved," Tom said of the Chinatown Night Market, adding the need for street closures has been the challenge but also part of the appeal of the event.  "The main mandate for the Night Market is to bring people down to Chinatown. We have looked at sites on our periphery, but in order to have the same buzz and atmosphere it had to be on one of the main two streets in Chinatown."


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      May 2, 2014 at 3:49pm

      "The main mandate for the Night Market is to bring people down to Chinatown."

      But how can anyone realistically expect to ATTRACT anyone to any neighbourhood where every other business is an herbalist shop catering solely to rather superstitious older Chinese people.

      Is there NO expectation in the larger community that Chinatown MERCHANTS should be doing something to at least help themselves. The only real restaurants/food shops expanding are doing so on E Georgia and Union St and it seems to be done by non-Chinese?
      What about Pender and Keefer? Empty storefront after empty storefront with herbalists in every other stall. Even as I speak a new one is opening right now on a block with 4 others!!!!
      Now I am thinking that partly the reason why they are cancelling something that they finally FIXED and made fairly great, is that the majority of Association members (the payers) are the herbalists and a Night Market does nothing for them and so they don't want to pay for it.
      I don't think that area should be getting anymore support until they establish a reasonable community plan.

      Andrea C.

      May 2, 2014 at 5:11pm

      The only herbalist blight in Chinatown is the dingy medical marijuana storefronts popping up all the place.

      Dave S.

      May 3, 2014 at 3:24pm

      The article said 2013 was a success year but what criteria did they base that on? I live in Strathcona which is just off Chinatown and I go to the night market every other week. I could see no difference between 2010, 2011, or 2012. If anything, it has gotten worse with less and less vendors as most of them left for the Richmond night markets.

      The most popular attractions in any night market are the food vendors, which are in very short supply in Vancouver. You have about 6 to 8 food vendors compared to 50 or more at the Richmond night markets. Food trucks that suppose to appear at the night market do not come all the time. There are none of them on Sunday and only a few on Saturday. I doubt the food trucks could make much money since they stopped coming to the night market as the summer progressed.

      I suspect the real reason the Vancouver Night Market is closing is the lack of revenue coming in from fewer and fewer vendors. If the night market is as successful and popular as the organizers claim, they should have no trouble raising rental fees to cover the costs.

      Another reason for the closing is the dispersal of Chinese people from Vancouver to the suburbs like Richmond, Burnaby, Coquitlam, Surrey. The demographics of Strathcona and Chinatown have changed as more and more non-Chinese people are now moving in. Yes, there are many social housing projects in and near Chinatown with plenty of Chinese Seniors living in them. I see crowds of these senior citizens in the summer at the night market but they never spend any money at the market. If you go to the Richmond night markets, it is mainly young people you see there. And they spend a lot of money.

      I don't see how the Vancouver Chinatown Night Market can survive unless the City of Vancouver or a major corporate sponsor subsidize it. Either way they are throwing money away.

      Gabriel F

      May 3, 2014 at 6:23pm

      This is a huge loss for a neighbourhood trying to develop a new identity. Last year was great, the market had a great multicultural vibe going on with music, food and great inclusive atmosphere... I live around the area, and the region is always in a struggle to create a friendly community, push away all the drug dealers and such, and the market was part of the change. The city should help the market stay, they can only win. There's only a small section of street that is blocked, shouldn't be such big deal.

      Alan Layton

      May 3, 2014 at 11:13pm

      @HellSlayerAndy - I'm pretty sure that non-Chinese businesses in this city receive occasional support, so why can't the Chinese business owners expect the same thing?


      May 5, 2014 at 9:27am

      Too bad about the Downtown Night Market but it is a 'victim' of not being as good as the Richmond venue (itself one of two). The only advantage it had was being in walking/cycling distance of the hipsterati, but that was not enough. Not enough hurricane potatoes, not enough variety or quality of merch, not enough hype, little in the way of musical acts (albeit the Richmond Night Market is mostly remarkable in that respect for awesome high-decibal screeching of people who have never done it outside of their basement's cute though), and no sponsorships or parking revenue to keep the thing going.

      But just south on Main there are a couple of well attended car-free festivals. Maybe this could be revived as a special, once or twice a year thing, rather than a weekly fair? Hope so.


      May 5, 2014 at 6:49pm

      There is no mention that the block usually used by the Night Market at Main and Keefer is under major construction. Both the NW and SW buildings are bulldozed and the lots are being excavated. I wouldn't want to present an arts and culture festival under those circumstances no matter which neighbourhood it was in.
      I will also point out that the Chinatown Merchants Association was a major supporter of the rezoning and gentrification of the neighbourhood. It sucks now. When the 3 towers under construction at Main and Keefer are completed, Chinatown as we 'think' we know it will disappear; no base for a Chinatown Night Market.


      May 7, 2014 at 1:10pm

      to tf: bang on.

      Junior Demus

      May 9, 2014 at 9:22am

      I am truly gutted. My family attended almost every weekend last summer. We have been counting down the days to the opening this year only to hear this news at the weekend. This is a huge loss to the community. This market really brought a diverse crowd together and offered amazing eats, treats and wares every summer weekend. There will be a huge cultural hole on Keefer this summer. I'm surprised that local businesses and impresarios aren't stepping up here--this event adds huge value to the neighbourhood. Especially with the number of new condos going in--you would think that one of the developers would help to fund. Just sayin' Westbank (188 Keefer), Solterra (Keefer block), Onni (various nearby).