Kim Smythe, Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce president and CEO, looks forward to the chamber and the city clearing Commercial Street when Thursday night street markets start June 21. The markets will run every Thursday night until Aug. 30. (CHRIS BUSH/ The News Bulletin)

Nanaimo night markets to start this summer

Commercial Street will close for Thursday night street markets in downtown Nanaimo

Plans are in the works to liven up downtown Nanaimo’s summer nights.

The Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce has worked with the city and downtown merchants and potential vendors to start up a summertime night market.

Nanaimo’s Commercial Street Night Market will run every Thursday for 11 weeks, from June 21 until Aug. 30. Commercial Street will be closed to traffic between Terminal Avenue and Church and Chapel streets. Museum Way, Wharf and Skinner streets will also be blocked off.

“There’ll be a street closure on Commercial Street with artisan and vendors up and down the street and merchants, hopefully participating, keeping their doors open and putting a table or tent out on the street,” said Kim Smythe, chamber president and chief executive officer. “We’ll get some food trucks, some entertainment, we’ll get some action happening downtown and we’ll see if we can’t start to attract people down on a regular basis.”

The events will be similar to other popular Island markets, such as the Craig Street Market in Parksville, Sidney’s Street Market and the Oak Bay Night Market. Smythe cites the the success of other markets, such as Parksville’s, which now attracts about 180 regular vendors on Tuesdays through the summer months.

Thursdays were chosen so as not to compete with the Parksville market and to attract those vendors to Nanaimo.

There will also be special operating hours for sidewalk cafés and multiple stages for live entertainment, food trucks in Diana Krall Plaza plus family activities, such as bouncy castles and climbing walls on market nights.

Smythe went on to say merchants and vendors chamber staff have spoken with have been positive about holding a regularly scheduled street fair and once shoppers start coming down regularly, Smythe hopes that will translate into new shopping and dining habits that will bring a steady flow of people downtown.

“They’ll experience the night life of Commercial Street and find out that it’s safe, it’s clean, it’s fun and it’s a great place to be, so we’ll help revitalize downtown that way,” he said.

Smythe said the city has given its approval for the market and discussions are ongoing to bring more downtown merchants on board.

The chamber will manage the planning and organization for the the market, including venue management and site preparation, talent, equipment, volunteer support, security, permits and insurance, parking, sanitation, liaising with emergency services and merchants, marketing and promotion.

The aim is to help revitalize downtown business and night and organizing the market could ultimately lead to a possible new business improvement association overseen by the chamber.

“Ever since we did the bathtub street fair last July we were really excited about how successful that was and, in talking with the merchants downtown, we realized there needs to be a BIA,” Smythe said. “There needs to be somebody supporting existing downtown merchants to optimize what they could out of occasions and events and seasons and things like that.”

The chamber estimates more than 100 vendors will turn out for the Nanaimo night market weekly. Vendor booths will operate from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Interested vendors and entertainers can inquire with the chamber at 250-756-1191 or online at

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