Non profits caught up in food fight

By Rhiannon Coppin News reporter Non-profit groups wanting to sell fair-style fare during this weekend’s Lions Club Trade show are out of…

By Rhiannon Coppin

News reporter

Non-profit groups wanting to sell fair-style fare during this weekend’s Lions Club Trade show are out of luck.

Legally, the city can’t allow non-profit groups to sell food during the show.

And those who can allow it — local business owners Zola Dore and Ofelia Andrade — aren’t willing to.

The Kiwanis Club, MADD of Whitehorse, and cancer-fighting team Sisters Abreast wanted to sell hot dogs, chili, hamburgers, corn on the cob, chicken and pork shish kebabs and popcorn to show-goers, raising money through the high foot traffic generated by the trade show.

“The city is not being fair by only giving us four days notice of no food service,” MADD of Whitehorse wrote in an e-mail to mayor Bev Buckway.

Stella Martin, her two daughters, a mother-in-law and a sister-in-law were counting on food sales to help raise their $2,000 per-head entry fee for Edmonton’s August Weekend To End Breast Cancer.

Now, they’re stuck with a few hundred dollars worth of corn and kebabs.

Taking a break from math tutoring at Hidden Valley Elementary, Martin told how her mother had had a left-breast mastectomy and how Martin’s 25 year-old daughter, Kirsten McDonald, assembled the Yukon-based family team to honour the matriarch’s ongoing battle.

“My daughter e-mailed me: ‘I want to do this for nanny. I want to raise money,’” said Martin.

Angered and frustrated, Martin told Buckway in a phone conversation Tuesday night why she was most disappointed: a 27-year community tradition has been broken through a legal contract and a few strokes of a pen.

On April 16th, a city staffer faxed a standard event contract to Bob Downey, chair of the Lake Laberge Lions Club and organizer of the annual Whitehorse-based business and product trade show.

Downey quickly signed the familiar-looking document and faxed it back to the supervisory team at the Canada Games Centre, where the show’s being staged May 4 to 6.

To Downey, it was business as usual —until last Monday.

“We got a phone call at 3:44 in the afternoon telling us that these food booths could not participate in the trade show,” he said.

Whitehorse has its hands tied, said city manager Dennis Shewfelt.

The city entered into lease agreements with the businesses in the Canada Games Centre.

The leases include exclusivity clauses — the sole right to provide food services on the property.

“We asked them [Midnight Sun and Subway] prior to renting to the trade show whether they would be willing to waive the exclusivity clause,” he said. “They were not willing to.”

The Lions Club’s contract clearly states that anyone offering food and beverage services during the trade show would have to have received prior written authorization from the city, said parks and recreation manager Linda Rapp.

Like Shewfelt, Rapp isn’t sure why the issue only came to light on Monday.

She blames the controversy on simple miscommunication.

The city didn’t know to answer, and the Lions Club didn’t know to ask.

“Perhaps the Lions Club thought that, because they had done it [vending] previously, it wasn’t an issue for them,” she said.

For now, the city is legally bound by the lease terms. Only Subway and Midnight Sun can choose to waive the exclusivity clause.

“If they change their mind then that’s their call,” said Rapp.

On Tuesday, Subway franchise owner Ofelia Andrade declined comment, citing a lack of information.

She’s merely a franchise owner and not involved with the lease, she said.

However, Rapp confirmed the city had dealt with Andrade in this matter.

Andrade wouldn’t say whether she was opposed having vendors outside in the parking lot.

Though she’s attended past Lions trade shows, Andrade couldn’t recall whether she saw food vendors there.

“I don’t know, I don’t know, quit pestering me,” she said.

The situation is unfortunate for the non-profits, but the Lions Club should have resolved the issue before booking the premises, said Zola Dore, owner of Midnight Sun Coffee Roasters.

As a tenant, her obligation is to ensure she can afford to pay the high rent in the low-traffic centre, she said.

“For the people of Subway and Midnight Sun to close us down, I think it shows a lack of conscience: a lack of community conscience,” said Martin.

Midnight Sun sponsors many community events, said Dore.

She said she has supported the youth conference for the past six years, and that she puts out $5,000 of coffee donations each year to local groups, including the cancer society’s 24-hour relay.

 “If these guys want to paint me with a bad guy’s brush, that’s pretty shortsighted,” she said.

Dore is mostly concerned that trade show attendees have a limited amount of disposable cash, and she wants to ensure it isn’t diluted through too many vendors.

That argument doesn’t wash with Downey.

“I was told that this is the busiest weekend of the year and they (Midnight Sun and Subway) want to have the sole concessions,” he said.

You have to think, that the business is brisk this particular weekend because of the draw of the trade show, said Downey.

“The biggest complaint we get about trade shows,” Downey said wryly, “is there’s not enough food.”

Rhiannon Coppin can be reached at rcoppin@yukon-news.com

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