A few Richmond Night Market vendors are frustrated they couldn’t get a full refund after the spring/summer event was delayed indefinitely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As vendors, we are struggling at this point. I don’t know who should be responsible for our financial loss this year,” said Dongmei Wu, one of the vendors who spent more than $20,000 on rent last year to land a spot with the event organizer.
As one of North America’s largest outdoor events in the summer, Richmond Night Market was slated to run from May 8 to Oct. 12 this year.
However, COVID-19 changed everything, including putting an abrupt halt on the efforts of 250 vendors who spent months purchasing equipment for their business.
According to Wu, she, along with other vendors, reached out to the event organizer recently to ask for a full refund for the rent since the opening date hasn’t been scheduled yet.
However, her request was rejected, and there are only three options available; the money goes towards reserving a spot for next year; pay a $3,500 administration fee to get their money back or pay $5,000 for next year’s deposit and a $1,000 administration fee.
“None of them seems to work for me,” said Wu.
“I don’t understand. The night market hasn’t started yet and they didn’t do much, so why are they still charging us so much in administration fees?
“What’s even worse is that many vendors I spoke to have spent thousands of dollars purchasing cutlery sets, cooking equipment and ingredients. And they are all going to be wasted this year.”
Everyone is suffering
“It’s a very frustrating time for us right now,” said Raymond Cheung, organizer of the Richmond Night Market, adding that the pandemic also put them in a tough spot.
Cheung said that they have been working with different levels of government to figure out a solution to see if there is any chance that they could open this summer.
There is no definite answer at present, as the City of Richmond is also waiting for guidelines from the provincial government.
“We told vendors that we would decide at the end of June to see if there is any chance to open. We can’t make decisions based on guesses,” said Cheung.
According to Cheung, his team is trying their best to accommodate more than 250 vendors’ situations.
They also understand that a few of them hope to get a refund, but they can’t give money back to individuals. Otherwise, this would be unfair to other vendors.
Meanwhile, Cheung also decided to refund rents of May and June for each vendor.
“So at least they have some cash flow. But we still need to pay the lease and carry on the costs of rents until next year,” said Cheung.
Cheung noted that his team isn’t obliged to give people a refund of May and June based on the contracts signed with vendors, but said it was the “right thing to do.”
“We are struggling because we have (had) zero income since last year.
“We also spent lots of money on buying equipment…My staff had been working hard in the office to get the permit ready for vendors. Now all the work is stopped.
“I feel frustrated that the government said we are going to save all small businesses, but there is nothing out there to help us. We didn’t do anything wrong.
“We did everything we are supposed to do. Then the virus came, and now we are just sitting here.”
Wu said she and other business owners acknowledge that it’s not the organizer’s fault that the event might not take place this year.