Sheepie runs a Chocolate Club, and so every month, we go to different chocolate cafes and taste their chocolate. Sheepie is a chocolatier hobbyist and is always eager to share his makings with his members. The club runs through Meetup.com a popular social group online which allows one with different interests come together in person. It’s really great opportunity if you’ve just moved to another city and want to make new friends and connections. The club is free and there are no obligations – it’s just people with similar interests meeting and sharing the experience. Sheepie takes time out of his crazy busy schedule to volunteer to let others know more about chocolate.
So it was another chocolate gathering. Unfortunately, the cafe had a fire which meant that we had to sit outside. That wasn’t a problem since the owner Anne-Geneviève Poitras built benches beyond the sidewalk into the road called parklets. (something you see on Robson street by Cafe Crepe).
Since we were like 10 people and we wouldn’t have fit in the small cafe, it was perfect. Some ordered gelato from her and they said she was very cheerful and the food was good.
Because of the limited space, most of us got our drinks from the cafe next door at Coco et Olive. Sheepie had already talked to the people at Coco et Olive as he usually does when bringing the large group to a a cafe.
As Sheepie talked to the group, Anne-Geneviève walked up to him. At first, we thought she was interested in taking part. Then it turned sour and she never took off her big smile the entire time. She thought that we were some event that was trying to sell products to each other on her property. Sheepie and others tried to convince her that:
- we were her customers as some had bought gelato from her
- that we were not selling anything and that two people had brought chocolate that they made at home as a hobby and were sharing the food and experience
- she demanded that we need a permit to host an event which seemed ridiculous. This has NEVER happened at any other cafe. (in fact, I and Sheepie also organize several other social meetup groups and never had this problem) We were not an ‘event’. For example, why would a few book lovers (like a bookclub) need a permit to talk to each other about books at a cafe? We were not even taking up the entire cafe (well in this case, there wasn’t any cafe to occupy). Chocolate Arts Cafe – Greg Hook loves us and always takes time out of his busy schedule to show us more about chocolate in detail. He’s a real mentor.
- she claimed that she built the benches out of her pocket and it was hers. The benches may be hers, but I would like to question the city as to where the property line ends. It’s not on the sidewalk, in fact on the other side of the sidewalk into the road. Some of the members claimed that this was public property whether she built the benches or not.
So like always, I dug in to do some research. Here’s what I found:
Excerpt from City of Vancouver website:
What is a Parklet?
Parklets are public spaces created by extending a platform over a parking space at the
level of the sidewalk. Amenities such as benches, tables, chairs, landscaping, and bike
parking can then be added to create a welcoming public space.
While parklets are sponsored by a private partner, all amenities must remain free and open
for any member of the public to use. Advertising, table service, and other commercial activities are not permitted.
The City will retain ownership of the parklet structure and is responsible for any major
repairs. However, the sponsoring organization is expected to regularly oversee and clean
the parklet, and to maintain any plants incorporated into the design.
So, yes, it is public space that we can all use. We are not running any commercial service of any kind. We are just people who are interested in chocolate, going around the city to try out chocolate at different chocolate stores/cafe. We had brought business to her cafe. We were not trying to destroy the parklet or the property in any way, rather enjoying the benches and her gelatos in the sun.
Seems like Anne-Geneviève makes a big deal over small things before getting things straight. That or she was paranoid by us because maybe she thought she would get another complaint from the neighbours.
We were asked to leave and come back with a permit. We all went to Coco et Olive instead.
The staff at Coco et Olive called his manager and it seemed like the manager talked to Anne over the phone. Not sure what was exchanged as it was all done behind closed doors.
Oh well, with Sheepie fuming and everyone no longer feeling welcome, we walked away, never to return. Shame, they lost 10 customers…I didn’t even get a chance to try their chocolate which looked pretty good. Too bad…
*This cafe closed down at the end of 2015.
Taste: N/A Price for Value: N/A