Downtown Langford may soon become the destination of choice for classic car enthusiasts looking for a place to gather on summer Saturday nights.
Recently, a casual group of classic car and hotrod owners who had been informally meeting at Royal Oak Shopping Centre for years on Saturday nights were handed parking tickets by mall management and told the gatherings were no longer welcomed.
The Saanich News wrote a story on the ticketing, which resulted in multiple letters and online comments from readers expressing outrage over the mall’s actions.
Langford Mayor Stew Young reacted to the situation by offering an open invitation to any car enthusiasts who wanted to come to the West Shore on a Saturday night for an impromptu car show.
“We don’t have parking meters. It’s free, come on out,” Young said. “Hopefully it turns into something, that Langford gets a bit known on a Saturday night to come cruise by, find a parking spot and talk to people. Do a bit of an old car social.”
This past Saturday (July 27) some of the classic car owners returned to Royal Oak Shopping Centre, while others decided to take up Young’s offer of finding a home in Langford.
Young said about 20 to 30 cars parked along Goldstream Avenue.
Larry Zilinsky, owner of a ’32 Ford roadster, said they were once again welcome at Royal Oak but the situation has put a sour taste in some mouths. Zilinsky said he’ll likely join the others in Langford this coming Saturday.
“From the feedback I’m hearing, I’m tending to think more people are just going to start going out to Langford,” Zilinsky said. “I think they’re just fed up with the people here. … Management in general. You sort of figure, if they don’t want us here then why be here.”
Royal Oak property manager Victoria Shannon said the mall has received a lot of feedback about the issue, some helpful and some hurtful. Discussions are ongoing with some of the organized car clubs involved with the meet up and she is optimistic an agreement will be reached.
“We’re going to brainstorm and we’re going to find a way to do it properly,” Shannon said. “Regardless of the negative stuff we’re seeing on Facebook, I think we are actually moving forward and moving towards a resolution.”
For now, as long as the car owners are respectful and are not parking in the area by Country Grocer, they are being allowed to meet at the mall on Saturdays. Shannon said there was some negative behaviour from the car enthusiasts which led to the concerns, but she believes it was a few ruining it for the many.
“For the most part these are just nice retired guys who are into cars. And those are the demographic that we want at our shopping centres,” Shannon said. “This is a really tough thing and it’s a learning experience, completely, for us. We could have done things better, totally, in hindsight. But there’s trouble on both sides and we’re working really hard to fix that.”
Young, a classic car owner himself, went down to the Langford meet and talked with some of the people there, who he said were appreciative to be welcomed somewhere. He said he’ll be bringing down his ’62 Lincoln convertible to take part.
“We’re a bit of a car city. Everybody has cars and there’s the (Western) speedway here. It’s kind of a culture that we have out here,” Young said. “This is a great event. … It’ll be good for Langford, we don’t have much going on on a Saturday night here.”