Vancouver Province column: Please, will someone find a new home for popular night market?

The Province
Monday, October 1, 2007

Load up on the dumplings, DVDs and designer knock-offs while you can. The Richmond night market closes out its 2007 season next Monday night.
Vendors will be folding up their tables and turning off their grills until next year — if there is a next year, that is.

That’s because the lease on its current location, in a warehouse area alongside the Fraser River, is about to expire. And the colourful bazaar has yet to find an alternative venue for 2008.

That the future of this much-loved Lower Mainland tradition is now in limbo is a shame, because this is an event of which Metro Vancouver, and especially Richmond, can be proud.

Not only is it the reigning heavyweight of West Coast night markets, it is also the largest of its kind in North America.

It has received rave media reviews from Seattle to Toronto to Boston. And tourists from across North America and Asia have made it a must-see attraction.

The market is also one of the few places in the Lower Mainland where people of all ages can enjoy some good cheer — or, as one travel writer put it, a “frenetic and entertainingly rowdy vibe” — without having to contend with drunken thugs.

What’s most impressive is that the founder of this summertime tradition, entrepreneur Raymond Cheung, made all of this happen without receiving one cent from government.

The market has more than quadrupled in size since its inception eight years ago.

This summer, more than 35,000 folks flocked to the banks of the Fraser each night for their fix of Hello Kitty knick-knacks, fried octopus and kimchi pancakes.

That translates into some serious economic gain for Richmond, not to mention creating another big tourism draw for the Lower Mainland.

Which is why this Metro Vancouver institution should stay close to its Richmond roots.

“We would very much love to stay in Richmond if everything falls into place,” says Cheung, who graciously wishes to thank all those visitors who have supported the night market over the years.

As he notes, it requires at least 15 acres for the market to operate. And that’s a serious challenge in Richmond, or anywhere else, given the Lower Mainland’s red-hot real estate market.

According to Cheung, the City of Richmond, Tourism Richmond and the Richmond Chamber of Commerce have all helped look for a new home, so far without success.

The Richmond night market is recognized as one of the best nights out in the Lower Mainland.

But there’s always another party, another festival, or another fair just around the corner, willing to fill a void.

Next summer, the fish-shaped red-bean waffles and the Cantonese pop singers will be back — one way or another.

But for the sake of tradition — and not messing with proven success — let’s hope Richmond can long lay claim to this spectacle of bartering, bubble tea and great grub.

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Filed under Entertainment, Food and Dining, Neighbourhoods, Nightlife, Real Estate, Retail, Vancouver Province Columns

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