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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Rebecca Lang of Any Thyme Gardening installed a seed exchange library in front of her home on Beechwood Avenue. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)
Victoria gardeners scramble to create local seed exchanges

Fairfield resident’s seed exchange an instant hit

On Feb. 27, a construction vehicle remained on the site of the former encampment between the Pat Bay Highway and McKenzie Avenue as part a clean-up effort. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Encampment between Pat Bay Highway, McKenzie Avenue cleared, all residents relocated

Efforts to disband encampment resumed after January fire

Sooke resident Nathan Hanson popped both his driver’s side tires on a pothole near a construction site on Sooke Road. Hanson said he was following a line of traffic and was just before the 17 Mile Pub when he drove over the pothole. (Photo contributed/Nathan Hanson)
Driver blows two tires on pothole near construction site on Sooke Road

Ministry of Transportation says keeping highways in good condition a priority

Environment Canada has issued a wind warning for Greater Victoria, with winds expected to get up to 70 km/h Friday morning. (Don Denton/Black Press Media)
Wind warning promises blustery Friday for Greater Victoria

Winds up to 70 km/h expected Friday morning

Passengers in rows 13 to 19 on Air Canada Jazz flight 8069 from Vancouver to Victoria Feb. 28 were exposed to a case of COVID-19. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
COVID-19 exposure found on flight from Vancouver to Victoria

Passengers in rows 13 to 19 on Air Canada Jazz flight 8069 Feb. 28 affected

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the B.C. legislature press theatre to give a daily update on the COVID-19 pandemic, April 6, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. nears 300,000 COVID-19 vaccinations, essential workers next

564 new cases, four deaths, no new outbreaks Thursday

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of March 2

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: How’s your butter?

Recent reports have some Canadians giving a second look to one of… Continue reading

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky, father of the Great One, dies at 82

Canada’s hockey dad had battled Parkinson’s disease and other health issues

The intersection of Melrose Street and Third Avenue. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Suspect in custody after two pedestrians struck in Port Alberni hit and run

RCMP asking for video footage, credit witnesses for quick arrest

(National Emergency Management Agency)
No tsunami risk to B.C. from powerful New Zealand earthquake: officials

An 8.1 magnitude earthquake shook the north of New Zealand Thursday morning

Comox Valley RCMP had access to 20 Street blocked off between Cousins and Choquette avenues as they conducted a raid of a house on the block. Photo by Terry Farrell
Comox Valley RCMP raid Courtenay problem house, several arrests made

Comox Valley RCMP conducted a raid of a problem house on 20th… Continue reading

(AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)
Pandemic stress, isolation key factors as to why Canadians turned to cannabis, alcohol

Study found that isolation played key role in Canadians’ substance use

A Cowichan Valley mom is wondering why masks haven’t been mandated for elementary schools. (Metro Creative photo)
B.C. mom frustrated by lack of mask mandate for elementary students

“Do we want to wait until we end up like Fraser Health?”

Most Read