This 2019 photo shows the opening night of the 2019 Sidney Street Market as more than 150 vendors lined Beacon Avenue. Sidney’s chief administrative officer Randy Humble said it’s unlikely that the 2020 edition will look like the 2019 edition because of COVID-19. (Black Press Media file photo)

Peninsula markets on hold, could look radically different upon return

Sidney’s chief administrative officer says it is ‘unlikely’ market will go forward in familiar format

Sidney’s chief administrative officer says it is unlikely the town’s popular street market will proceed in its familiar form because of COVID-19.

“The EOC did previously recommend that the Sidney market be cancelled for June and July,” said Randy Humble, who currently serves as director of the emergency operations centre (EOC) as Sidney responds to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The [planning] section of the EOC would monitor and revisit the issue every [four] weeks to make a determination regarding whether or not the [market] could proceed in August and, if so, in what format.”

This said, Humble also pointed out that health authorities have announced that outdoor farmer markets are permitted, provided they are limited to food vendors only.

The provincial government announced that all markets, street markets, night markets, Saturday markets or community markets must only allow vendors that sell food that those events. Vendors of non-food items and all other merchandise are prohibited to sell at these events.

Food vendors, said Humble, must follow all required health orders, including physical distancing requirements. “Based, upon this, the Town will discuss with the market operator the potential feasibility of significantly modified market (possibly starting in June) that is limited to vendors that sell fresh, locally grown produce only,” he said.

Such a market would likely not be on Beacon Avenue, but rather outdoors at another location that could accommodate vendors and ensure the required physical distancing requirements are met, said Humble.

RELATED: PHOTOS: Opening night of 20th Sidney Street Market draws thousands

The Sidney Street Market is scheduled to run every Thursday between June 4 to Aug. 27 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Beacon Avenue. The event celebrated its 20th anniversary last year and is advertised as the largest outdoor market on Vancouver Island, attracting between 3,000 and 5,000 people each week.

Elsewhere on the Saanich Peninsula, Marlene Hamer, market manager of Central Saanich’s Peninsula Country Market, welcomed the provincial announcement.

“Markets like ours have been deemed an ‘essential service,’ but only for vendors who sell food,” she said in a message to vendors.

“This really is good news because there were some markets in other parts of [British Columbia] being asked to shut down completely, but it’s been rightly recognized that allowing food vendors to keep setting up relieves the pressure [on] grocery stores and actually provides a slightly safer atmosphere with outdoor shopping.”

The market that usually runs at the Saanich Fairgrounds remains closed.

“If they were to re-open, the market will look very different amid COVID-19, as do our community’s grocery stores,” said Hamer.

“As it stands today, we would only be allowed 50 persons on-site including the vendors themselves, there would be increased hand-washing opportunities, there would be measures in place to ensure all persons keep two metres apart from each other, there would only be food vendors on site, and there would be no live music or gathering areas.”

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