The Holiday Market looks like a done deal - with nothing in the way of public input

By Ryan O’Dowd: Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Pepper Parr, Publisher
September 17, 2021


Local business owners are divided over the potential benefits of an expanded Burlington Holiday Market patterned after the very successful Christmas Market held in Germany.

The Grey Cup takes place in Hamilton on the 12th

Members of the Burlington Downtown Business Association generally seemed on board with the expansion but felt very much out of the loop – they just didn’t know all that much about an event that could significantly change the holiday season that brings in 20% of their annual revenue. The result has been some notable push-back.

The Agora Marketplace owner shared his enthusiasm with the Gazette, saying he has been asked to take part and while the details are yet to be finalized he isn’t under the impression any additional fees will be required for his wares to feature in the market.

“It’s great and I want to be a part of it, it should last even longer, all through December,” he said.

The Odd Spot manager and business partner replied similarly but noted no one has been in touch with them about the market expansion.

“No one has reached out to us personally but it’ll be great, it’s always a good time,” he said.

Garden area of Centro market on Brant Street

A number of owners were hearing about the market expansion for the first time and didn’t have anything to say positively or negatively, including Centro Market, Bush’s Men’s Wear, Book Nook, and Mirella’s Lady Boutique (which will close permanently before the holiday season due to COVID-19). Unfortunately the Gazette was unable to reach Joelle Cooling, one of the city’s smartest marketers, for comment prior to going to print.

Jason Pepetone, owner of Centro Market, is usually plugged-in to the city happenings but was blindsided by the holiday market when the Gazette reached out to him for comment.

“No ,the [Burlington Downtown Business Association] haven’t contacted me, I know nothing about it,” said Pepetone.

Other business owners had negative views of the proposed expansion.

Bocana Boutique owner, Carol, said she heard about the Christmas market but had to send an email to find out more. Carol didn’t see the appeal for local businesses and raised COVID-19 concerns.

“I don’t think we need to bring lots of people down here in the middle of the pandemic. We don’t need to open this up to other cities, we should be supporting our own right now. We didn’t have Sound of Music, we didn’t have the Rib Fest, because of the pandemic so why are we doing this? It also takes up parking a week before Christmas,” said Carol.

The proposed Burlington Holiday Market would take place between December 9th-12th. The downtown Burlington business association (DBBA) had little to say during a standing committee earlier this week other than to say they would play a supportive role to ensure that BDBA member interests were protected.. A potentially hands-off approach by the DBBA was reflected by the lack of awareness amongst local business owners.

While some mentioned the DBBA and touching base with Brian Dean, Executive Director, there was no awareness of the Zoom meeting where the DBBA had some fifteen local businesses take part.

The folks at the Poacher love the idea – takes place close to their doorstep.

Management at the Poacher is fully on board, they are in constant communication with Dean. This is little surprise as they will be participating in the Holiday Market in some capacity, restaurants out of the loop will surely view plans less favourably.

Council earlier in the week approved a motion to:

  • Moved by Councillor Kearns

    Approve an event called the Burlington Holiday Market as outlined in Recreation, Community, and Culture Department report RCC-12-21 for 2021 and 2022, and report back in Q2 2022 on the economic impact of local businesses, cultural impact, and parking/active transportation impact of the new event; and

    Authorize the Director to Recreation, Community and Culture to implement the specific details required to support the various components of the event that are to be hosted on city property.

    Moved byCouncillor Stolte

    Refer recreation, community and culture department report to the Council meeting on September 21, 2021.



    Moved by Councillor Nisan

    Amend the motion as amended to remove the words ‘two year pilot’, replace the words ‘for 2021 and report back in Q2 2022’ with the word ‘annually’ and add the words ‘to be reviewed in 2024’ at the end.



    Moved by Councillor Nisan

    Amend the amendment to remove the words ‘two year pilot’.


That recommendation will be heard by Council on Tuesday September 21st and passed unless one of the four people who voted for the recommendation chooses to put forward an amendment that would require a two thirds majority to pass which is unlikely.

Councillors Lisa Kearns, Angelo Bentivegna, Shawna Stolte voted against the recommendation. Mayor Meed Ward, Councillors Galbraith, Nisan and Sharman voted for.  One of these four would have to move for a reconsideration.

In order to reverse this two (Sharman and Galbraith) would have to change their vote.

Nisan is too tightly tied to the Mayor to change and Galbraith is very much onside with the Mayor.  He wondered why the matter was even pulled from the Consent agenda.

Councillor Sharman is said to have taken the position that he will support the merchants but he has to hear from them before he can do anything.

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3 comments to The Holiday Market looks like a done deal – with nothing in the way of public input

  • We gave Centro a large share of our Christmas gift giving budget last year. This year we will ensure Centro shopping is done well before the market takes place if common sense does not reign at Council.

  • Penny Hersh

    One would think that an event of this magnitude would have been run past all the downtown merchants and not as this article indicates did not happen.

    I reached out to Brian Dean to ask about this Holiday Market. I am not in favour of it because I feel that this will impact sales not only for the merchants but also the restaurants and bars. We are dealing with a 4th wave of Covid 19 that will still be around in December.

    The increase in traffic and the lack of parking spaces will impact the downtown merchants, who pay taxes and into the parking levy, at a time that is essential for many businesses to remain viable.

    In the course of our conversation Mr. Dean mentioned that they are looking into having liquor available at the event this year. If this indeed happens why would anyone go to the bars in the area ( one point of entry to the Holiday Market would be adjacent the Martini House). Mr. Dean indicated that he had been involved with this event for some time, so why is it that merchants like Centro had no idea that this was going to take place? In fact, I received information in August concerning this event and asked Joelle about it. She did not.

    I also question the ability of volunteers, security or organizers to be able to follow all Covid 19 protocols that will be in place. Limiting the number of people at any given time is great, but what about the people waiting in line to be admitted? Like the Food Truck Festival ( that supposedly the BDBA or the merchants knew nothing about) the people lining up to enter Spencer Smith Park were on top of each other, with no physical distancing and most not wearing masks. I am waiting to see if this event will be responsible for a rise of Covid 19 cases in Burlington. This should take about 2 weeks.

    Should council be making a decision like this, during a pandemic, before they know that all merchants are aware of it and a survey takes place to see if they are in favour of it? What’s the rush? Certainly if it is such a great idea it could wait one more year before rushing into approval this year.

    I watched the meeting and when the organizers were asked to “report back to council in Q2 2022 on the economic impact on businesses, cultural impact, and parking/active transportation impact of the new event” “the organizer indicated that he did not think it was possible because they had not budgeted to do this” Translated this means NO.

    I checked into whether Germany will be holding their Christmas Marts this year (they had to cancel them all at the last minute last year). ” Some cities have started planning, but it is possible like 2020 they might have to be cancelled at the last minute.”

    If this event is a private event not associated with the BDBA would the city have the ability to cancel this event if necessary, or would they have to wait for a Provincial mandate to do so? Has this possibility even crossed the minds of council?

    For the record I do not have a business in Burlington, and have nothing to lose or gain by this Holiday Market taking place.

    If you feel strongly one way or the other you have until Tuesday when the vote takes place to contact your ward councillor and the mayor.

    • David Barker

      Ms Hersh.

      Oh my gosh. I must invoke the spirit of Oddball of Kelly’s Heros.

      As a confirmed non-business owner why is it you believe you are better qualified to know what is best for the downtown merchants than is the BDBA or is its membership. It would seem the BDBA and many of its prominent members are not only in favour of the market but intend to participate in it.

      The alcohol question- you ignore the management of the Poacher is in favour. Again you obviously as a non-business owner have a better perspective than dies an actual business owner.

      I too checked up on the state of affairs with holiday markets in Germany for 2021. Very few cancelations at this time. The vast majority (not “some” as you say) are still planning on there being holiday markets this Christmas. Follow the link below.

      If the City is responsible for approving (or not) the project, and for setting its parameters; would it not be responsible for canceling the event if circumstances dictated? Head shake !