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Fireworks a good problem for businesses

Annual Celebration of Light explosions bring a big boom to the West End
Celebration of Light
An estimated 400,000 people typically turn out to English Bay to watch the Celebration of Light fireworks each year. photo Dan Toulgoet

An estimated 400,000 people watch the Celebration of Light fireworks from the shores of English Bay. Despite throngs of people gathering outside their windows, businesses in the area say the extra pedestrian traffic is worth it.

The non-profit Vancouver Fireworks Society operating the fireworks calls it the city’s biggest event and the world’s largest offshore fireworks competition. Many businesses schedule additional staff to combat crowds. Businesses with views advertise alternatives for a quieter experience.

“Between fireworks and Pride, it’s definitely the two busiest weeks of the year,” said Trish Ashbee, manager of the English Bay Milestones.

“It’s a bit crazy,” said Angel Requrntel, a manager at the Tim Horton’s on Davie. “But we have extra bodies so it’s OK.”

She noted the problem of limited washrooms available. Vanita Mahindru, manager at the Mac’s convenience store on Davie, agreed.

“We should have some washrooms outside for this particular night,” said Mahindru, explaining that not everyone who visits the store is a customer.

“It’s all hands on deck,” said Milestones manager Ashbee. She has worked there for five years and has not experienced any major problems.

People wishing to escape the crowds often visit the restaurant. “[The view of crowds] is pretty awesome,” said Ashbee. “Everyone herds up Denman towards Robson. I think the VPD are pretty good about that and facilitating.”

Ashbee noted driving a car through crowds on fireworks evenings is impossible. The city advises Vancouverites not to drive in the area because vehicle access will be restricted due to street closures, not to mention the large number of people arriving to and leaving the area on foot.

Many also escape indoors at the Boathouse on Beach Avenue, which offers a special three-course menu for firework nights.

“You can experience the fireworks inside,” said manager Regan Tavares, who said she didn’t even know what crowds were like last year because she was so busy working inside the restaurant.

A number of hotels with views of the bay, such as the Rosedale on Robson and Sheraton Vancouver Wall Centre, advertise rooms to book for fireworks evenings. Prices are higher and rooms often book up quickly.

VPD media relations officer Sergeant Randy Fincham said significant police presence will be felt on the streets, parks and beaches.

“Our officers will be there to assist both business owners and those that are coming down to enjoy the fireworks,” said Fincham in an email to the Courier.

The VPD considered crowds generally well-behaved during a Wednesday event last year despite a few incidents. Officers carried out hundreds of liquor pour outs in the English Bay area as well as across the transit network. Two Surrey teens were arrested after a fight. Media also reported that a man on rollerblades was trying to fight two police horses.

The competing countries this year are the U.S., France and Japan. The U.S. kicks off the event Saturday, July 26.