Shoeshine stand sparks street-level debate on Fort Street in Victoria

Councillor working to adapt bylaws to allow vending on public land

Avi Lambert gets a shoe shine recently on Fort Street from Jill Goodson. Goodson shines shoes for a donation and so far has been denied a licence from the city.

Avi Lambert gets a shoe shine recently on Fort Street from Jill Goodson. Goodson shines shoes for a donation and so far has been denied a licence from the city.

Jill Goodson knew she risked getting a ticket, but she was ready for an argument.

Last week, she set up her red shoe-shine kit, her tiny black chair and a taller chair for customers in the 700 -block of Fort St. A paper sign taped to the chair’s legs read “Jill’s Jazzed-Up Shoes; shoe shine by donation.”

Shoe shiners used to line Broad Street 50 years ago, she said. “It kind of went out of fashion a bit, so I’m trying to revive what was very historical in Victoria, with a modern twist.”

The city, however, isn’t ready for such a revival.

On June 8, the bylaw department formally denied her request for a busker’s licence. Goodson, however, isn’t giving up.

The public supports me, she insisted from “her spot” at the mid-block crosswalk near Vancity last Thursday afternoon. Her protest quickly evolved into a spontaneous, public debate.

Shortly after 2 p.m., bylaw officers arrived on scene.

A soft-spoken officer named John Kitson assured Goodson that he wouldn’t write her a ticket – at least not this time.

Instead, he upped his previous verbal warning with a written warning.

“I have to politely ask you to pack up and leave,” he told her.

Goodson asked to stay. “It’s a form of protest,” she argued.

Kitson refused, but the exchange was respectful.

“John has got to know me almost on a personal level,” Goodson explained, after agreeing to pack up.

The small crowd that gathered, however, had something else to say. “I support you!” said a passing pedestrian.

A man driving by with the window rolled down said the same, giving a thumbs up.

A man in a suit confronted the officer: “Don’t you feel bad?” he demanded.

Only one naysayer raised his voice.

“Bum!” muttered an older man before shuffling off. But he’s likely not Goodson’s only opponent.

“We have received complaints,” confirmed Kitson. Standing back, a second officer photographed the hubbub.

After the officers’ departure, a few people lingered, offering advice.

The impassioned suited man urged Goodson to keep shining shoes, but change her sign to read “I’m a beggar: Sit down and give me some money.”

There’s no bylaw against begging, he pointed out. Less than five metres away, a silent man, cap in hand, watched the action closely.

Bystander Chris Gower-Rees, who has a background in public relations, advised Goodson to “reposition” herself.

Winning approval is all about perception, he explained. “You’re providing a personal service, (but) if they open it up to personal services, which personal services will be allowed and which will not? Will chair massage be allowed?”

Goodson, however, described what she does as busking.

“I have 10 years of post-secondary education and a sense of humour,” she said, clearly comfortable in the spotlight. “I am an entertainer.”

Later that evening, Goodson pleaded her case for a second time to city council.

A sufferer of Crohn’s disease who receives a disability pension, she said she likes to work but can’t find a part-time job.

“If you can’t find a job, you need to make a job,” she said.

Her story has won the support of Coun. Lisa Helps, council’s downtown liaison.

Shining shoes is categorically similar to food carts; both are examples of street vending, Helps said Friday.

Currently, street vending can only take place on private property, such as parking lots, with permission from the owner. It’s one possibility Goodson is considering for her own business.

Helps, however, is hoping to loosen the regulations so that people like Goodson can sell their goods or services on city property. Next month, she and Coun. Marianne Alto will bring a motion to this effect to council.

Such a change to city bylaws, however, will take time.

In the meantime, Helps said she hopes the city will categorize Goodson’s shoe-shine business as legal, non-conforming and turn a blind eye.

“This is where the activist part of me and the city councillor part of me are in total conflict,” Helps admitted.

“(Goodson is) obviously providing a valuable service, she’s obviously providing a livelihood for herself.”

rholmen@vicnews.com

Just Posted

Black Press file photo
RCMP seek suspect in Vancouver Island-wide crime spree

Crimes stretched from Deep Bay to Qualicum, Ladysmith, Chemainus and Youbou

Jesse Roper tackles weeds in his garden to kick off the 2021 season of What’s In My Garden Man? (YouTube/Whats In My Garden)
VIDEO: Metchosin singer-songwriter Jesse Roper invites gardeners into his plot

What’s In My Garden, Man? kicks off with the poop on compost

(Victoria Cool Aid Society/Facebook)
Victoria food drive aims to feed those also struggling with housing

Quadra Village furniture store hosting drive-thru event Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

A sketch of the multi-use path that will connect Lagoon Beach and Royal Beach in Colwood. (Sketch courtesy of the City of Colwood)
Concepts for Colwood beach connector coming to council June 21

Major infrastructure project includes gathering places, public amenities and pathways

Victoria police are asking for witnesses who might have information about this tricycle that was stolen in downtown Victoria on Thursday. (Photo courtesy of VicPD)
Police seek witnesses after downtown Victoria company’s tricycle stolen

The three-wheeler was taken from the 2100-block of Store Street on Thursday

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Police are asking for public assistance in locating Anthony Graham who has been charged with the murders of Kamloops brothers Carlo and Erick Fryer. (RCMP photo)
2 charged, suspect at large in killings of B.C. brothers linked to gang activity: RCMP

Kamloops brothers Erick and Carlo Fryer were found deceased in May on a remote Okanagan road

Albert Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney unveil an opening sign after speaking about the Open for Summer Plan and next steps in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta 1st province in Canada to lift all COVID-19 public health restrictions

70.2% of eligible citizens 12 and older in the province have received a dose of the vaccine

Fraser Health registered nurse Ramn Manan draws a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe at a walk-up vaccination clinic at Bear Creek Park, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Honour our fathers’ with COVID-19 vaccine protection, B.C. urges

109 new cases Friday, 75 per cent of 12 and up immunized

Freighters have becomd abundant in the Trincomali Channel on the east side of Thetis Island.
Nanaimo ponders taking on waste from nearby anchored freighters

Vancouver-based Tymac petitioning the Regional District of Nanaimo to accept waste at its landfill

(Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Trutch Avenue in Chilliwack to be renamed to remove racist taint

New name to have Indigenous significance as Chilliwack takes new step toward reconciliation

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a joint news conference following the EU-Canada Summit, in Brussels, Belgium, Tuesday June 15, 2021. Trudeau says Canada is on track now to have 68 million doses delivered by the end of July, which is more than enough to fully vaccinate all 33.2 million Canadians over the age of 12. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine deliveries enough to fully vaccinate all eligible Canadians by end of July

Three in four eligible Canadians now have their first dose, nearly one in five fully vaccinated.

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases attributed to the highly contagious Delta variant grew in Canada this week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s public health agency reports spike in confirmed cases of Delta variant

More than 2,000 cases of the variant confirmed across all 10 provinces and in one territory

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: When was the last time you visited the mainland?

The films are again lighting the screens at local theatres, the wine… Continue reading

Most Read