Local merchants hold rally, some considering lawsuit

jeff hodson/ METRO VANCOUVEr


Mark Kenna, co-owner of Obsessions, a boutique store with four locations in Vancouver, is facing the closure of his Yaletown branch after incurring $185,000 in sale losses since Canada Line Construction began two years ago.

Storeowners are raising the stakes in the fight over compensation for lost revenue during Canada Line construction, with some Cambie Street business owners considering a joint action lawsuit.

Local merchants held a rally yesterday at Cambie Street and 18th Avenue. They said more than 40 businesses have closed since construction began.

In Yaletown, Mark Kenna’s boutique store Obsessions is advertising 75-per-cent-off sales, and facing closure.

“It’s been terrible, absolutely awful. They should have consulted with us first,” he said yesterday.

“It’s been terrible for business, and played havoc on our inventories.”

He estimates $185,000 in losses at the five-year-old location since construction began two years ago.

His storefront windows are just feet from fences lined with blue tarps.

Traffic was cut off in April, and these days few people walk by.

“With an aerial view you can see how blocked in it is,” he said.

Further south, some Cambie Street merchants are considering a joint action lawsuit.

“We are putting the premise out there,” said local property manager Don Watters at a rally yesterday.

“If nothing is done in the next month there’s a very high possibility of a lawsuit.”

He said businesses at his 22 Cambie locations lose $1.6 million every month, more than double what stores predicted two years ago.

Rally organizers pointed to a $9.8 million community development fund to compensate merchants during light rail construction in Seattle. They said it could be a blueprint for a Vancouver deal.

It’s a move NDP small business critic Gregor Robertson pushed for yesterday.

Pamela Young of Cambie Flowers said she has been especially affected as her business is dependent on people walking by. Her staff has shrunk from six to three people.

“It has not been two months, it has not been three months. It is two years already,” Young said.

Laura Jones of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business said property tax breaks could be directed to businesses.

“It is not too late,” she said.

Back in Yaletown, Kenna said signs directing people to his store came too late and billboard campaigns advertising Cambie and Yaletown businesses have not helped.

But more direct funding might have, he said. “Store closing” signs remain on his windows.

“Any form of compensation would have helped. We may have stayed.”

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