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Penticton  

Green light for mobile shops

The City of Penticton has given mobile vendors a green light to set up shop in a space near Gyro Park, despite protest from the Downtown Penticton Association.

Two months ago, city council approved a pilot program for mobile retail vending in the city, allowing two mobile retailers to set up shop in any space in Penticton where mobile food vendors are permitted, with two exceptions: the "Gyro hub" and the Lakeshore Drive and Winnipeg Street locations.

The former exception was among the spots that brought the issue back to council on Tuesday, with vendors asking for the Gyro hub – the through-road between Martin and Main streets at the southern tip of Gyro Park – to be included in the permissible spaces for mobile retailers.

That request came with some resistance from the Downtown Penticton Association, which has asked council to keep mobile retailers away from the downtown area to keep them from competing with "bricks and mortar" businesses.

"The DPA understands the appeal of this new business model is lower overhead with considerable savings on rent, staffing, insurance, WCB, taxes and utilities," the DPA said in a letter to council.

"These are the same reasons the 'bricks and mortar' business owners are not in favour of inviting the mobile retail trucks to park on the main streets downtown Penticton competing with them."

Because of those lowered costs, the DPA argues the mobile vendors, who sell similar products, would have a leg up on regular stores, a sentiment that Coun. Judy Sentes echoed.

"They speak to the fact that we are not a huge centre. In some of the larger, even countries of the world, you see this type of thing all the time, but they have huge populations that can support that," Sentes said. "Our people downtown pay taxes, they hire people to work in their stores and none of these costs are incurred by the people in a mobile retail truck."

However, that wasn't a popular belief among councillors, who, outside of Sentes, were in favour of the suggestion. That included Coun. Campbell Watt, who argued that, as a one-year pilot project, the city should be experimenting with where and where not to put the mobile retailers.

"To stifle these vendors upfront and not give them a full chance to succeed, I believe is unfair to them," Watt said. "Let's try to make this work first, and then maybe adjustments can be made."

Council voted 6-1 in favour of allowing vendors to set up shop in the Gyro hub, as well as a spot at Power Street and Lakeshore Drive, with Sentes dissenting.

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