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Kicked to the curb: Legal vendors forced out of Robson Square while unlicensed cannabis booth remains

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VANCOUVER -

Some food truck operators are accusing the City of Vancouver of a double standard. The legal vendors have been kicked out of Robson Square, while an unlicensed cannabis booth has been allowed to remain.

“Every time you move your sales go down,” explained Allister Fitsgerald, owner of Sauzzy Thai food truck.

Sauzzy Thai and other food vendors had to move while construction on the square was underway but since the square reopened, they not been allowed back. Instead, they were kicked to the curb adjacent to Nordstrom on Robson Street.

“Our sales were a third to 50 percent of what we normally make," said Fitsgerald. “Our permit is for Robson Square. Just let us into Robson Square.”

Fitsgerald said he pays the city about $1,300 a year for the permit.

The City of Vancouver told CTV News that the square is for reconciliation – a memorial to Indigenous children – and that the square’s future has yet to be decided. However, there appears to be room in the square for the food trucks too.

The food truck operator says they have gotten nowhere with the City of Vancouver and while they operate from afar, they watch a cannabis store in operation.

CTV News spoke to one of the people sitting behind a table filled with cannabis buds, rolled joints and several packages of edibles.

“No, I’m not licensed to be here,” he said. “You need a permit to sell, we’re not selling.”

We observed the booth on three different days and while he said he was giving away free product, one day there was a sign reading Just Blaze It Cannabis Store. The word store was clearly on the sign.

Police would walk through the square occasionally stopping to chat with the cannabis folks but appeared to leave them alone.

“It’s all a joke,” said Fitsgerald.

It is not the first time licensed business owners have felt shafted by Vancouver City Hall. Three years ago, Robson Square was a full-blown illegal cannabis market.

Fights would break out and smoke filled the air. It was only after increased public pressure that Vancouver police moved in and cleared it all away.

However, it is starting to seem like the movie Groundhog Day with history repeating itself.

Vancouver police stated in an email, “This isn’t something we tolerate as it is illegal, concerning and not okay.”

What does Sauzzy Thai think of its chances of returning to the square?

“As time goes on, slim to none,” said Fitsgerald.

The City of Vancouver is not making any commitment, stating that there are many partners involved in Robson Square, including the province, the Vancouver Downtown Business Improvement Association, the Vancouver Art Gallery, UBC and other key partners.

As for the unlicensed activity, the city says it has observed it and has been in contact with the Vancouver Police Department about it. 

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