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New West approves more locations for street vendors

There could be more street eats and other vendors in New Westminster soon.

City council has approved an expansion of locations for street vendors, not only for those selling food but those peddling arts, crafts, flowers or other items as well.

On Monday, council approved allowing a street vendor licence for outside 351 Columbia St., the police station on Columbia, and the New Westminster Public Library plaza (non-food). Three non-food licences will also be permitted in front of the Fraser River Discovery Centre in 2012 with the location being reviewed annually. The city said it will also evaluate other Downtown locations based on the merits of each application.

The city already allows vending and entertainment licences on the boardwalk on the property between the discovery centre and the new Westminster Pier Park, Hyack Square and the New Westminster SkyTrain station. The boardwalk location, however, is being eliminated because the city said it is not an appropriate use of their right-of-way on the Larco property.

A report to council said the city was restricted in finding spots in commercial areas because most sidewalks aren't wide enough to accommodate both pedestrian traffic and a cart, including Uptown New Westminster. The city has been redirecting any inquires for Uptown to the Royal City Centre mall, which has a private plaza at Sixth and Sixth.

Although there is high pedestrian traffic surrounding SkyTrain stations, the city can't authorize any vending locations near the Braid, Sapperton and 22nd Street stations because it doesn't own any property there.

The city will also hold lotteries for applications competing for the same location, with priority given to New West businesses.

In the last few years, Vancouver has instituted a rigorous selection process for food vendors in an effort to promote a variety of options and focus on healthy, fun and easily prepared food. The system is extremely competitive with more applicants than spots available.

New Westminster isn't in a position to be as choosy, said Coun. Jonathan Cote on Tuesday. At this point, the priority is to make sure vendors can attract customers, so traditional street food fare is the more likely way to go for now.

"It's time may come in New Westminster but I just don't think we're there yet," said Cote.

In addition, the city decided there will be no expansion of places for street entertainers to perform, but there will be stricter regulations. The new rules include a time limit of two hours at any location, no amplification allowed and no high-risk performances such as juggling knives or flaming objects.

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