Zoning rules stop Vancouver barber's planned move to Victoria Drive

Apr 12 2023, 9:09 pm

A Vancouver barber is having a tough time relocating his shop because zoning rules in his desired building don’t allow personal service businesses.

Colin Sinclair runs Del Rey Barbershop on Commercial Drive. It’s been there for a decade and is a thriving business, but this year, the landlord served him a rent increase and he’s looking for alternate spaces.

A client of his happened to be trying to rent out a building at 1502 Victoria Drive, just two blocks from his current location, and Sinclair thinks it would be ideal. The space has room for more chairs, has more electrical outlets, and some clients say it’d be even more convenient for them.

1502 Victoria Drive

Sinclair wants to move his haircutting business to this space on Victoria Drive. (Google Street View)

“It’s awesome. It’s right across from the park, it’s literally our vibe to a tee, it’s so good,” Sinclair said.

But he ran into trouble trying to get a business licence for the location, since that area of Victoria Drive is zoned for residential use with an exception for “neighbourhood grocery store[s].”

Zoning map Victoria Drive

The area of Victoria Drive that Sinclair wants to move to is zoned for residential use, in contrast to nearby Commercial Drive which allows commercial uses. (City of Vancouver)

There are some other shops on the street already, including The Coast Goods and Figaro’s Garden, but according to City of Vancouver spokesperson Kirsten Langan, they are grandfathered in.

“While there are a number of non-conforming businesses operating in corner store type spaces, these were operating as a non-conforming business prior to the creation of the neighbourhood grocery store definition, and are ‘grandfathered’ through provisions set out in the Vancouver Charter,” she said.

Sinclair spoke to the owner of The Found and the Freed, an antique shop at East Georgia and Victoria Drive that closed earlier this year, and heard it used to sell jam to qualify under the grocery category.

Sinclair took what he heard to the City of Vancouver’s zoning department, and said he was told retail would be okay as long as grocery was the primary business.

“I was like, ‘Okay, I’ll buy a fridge and I’ll sell pop and factory-sealed goods … I’ll play ball. I’ll do what I have to do,'” he said. “I just want to cut hair in a new location.”

But when he sent in his floorplan, the City apparently said it didn’t make much sense, and told him to contact Vancouver Coastal Health — which also said it was confused by the idea.

Langan, the City spokesperson, confirmed haircuts aren’t included in the allowed uses for the area.

“To open a combined barbershop and grocery, the City would require the uses proposed for the site to conform with what’s allowed in the zoning – so the barbershop component would not be allowed because it is a separate zoning use, not currently permitted in residential areas.”

The City is apparently looking to expand commercial opportunities in neighbourhoods, and the initial ideas were floated in a 2020 report that suggested easing rules to allow for more small-scale grocery stores, but didn’t mention other types of businesses.

The Victoria Drive Business Improvement Association, which represents businesses in the southern part of Victoria Drive, could only suggest Sinclair contact the City, as it doesn’t have jurisdiction in the case. The Greater Vancouver Board of Trade also declined to comment on this article.

For Sinclair, the process has been long and frustrating. In the midst of it, the landlord was keen for Sinclair to sign the lease. The space has now been listed online — meaning Sinclair could lose out if he doesn’t act fast.

“It’s just so complicated. I have no idea why I’m different than a grocery store. My hours are better. I close earlier… I’m not gonna have music blaring at 4 am,” he said. “It’s been so disheartening. I love this city, and I can’t stand this… this is why there’s nothing cool in neighbourhoods.”

Megan DevlinMegan Devlin

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