The Town of Fort Frances has eased the burden on small businesses hoping to sell their wares at the Rainy Rainy Lake Square by acquiring liability insurance which will cover the businesses selling on the square.
Many Fort Frances residents were upset when the Town of Fort Frances announced that vendors wishing to sell at Thursday Markets in the Rainy Lake Square would be required to hold $2 million in liability insurance and a business license from the Town of Fort Frances.
Last week the Downtown Fort Frances Business Improvement Area (BIA) stepped in to pay for a blanket business license to cover vendors at the market.
Not unlike drivers requiring liability insurance in case of automobile collisions,businesses hold liability insurance to cover themselves should customers get injured on their property or by their products. In the rare instance that someone could be injured by a product, insurance ensures that businesses or business owners do not have to pay out of pocket to cover the expenses of a person who is hurt which can be expensive depending on the seriousness of the injury or illness.
Rob says the Town holds liability insurance for the property of the Rainy Lake Square but that insurance would not have extended to the vendors at the markets.
“If you were at the market on a Thursday, or at the square at any point in time, and you tripped over a loose paving stone and hurt yourself. The Town would have insurance coverage for that situation,” Rob said. “Now, if you went to a vendor, and you were standing at a vendor table, and you’re looking at whatever it was they were selling, chatting with that vendor, and all of a sudden, a gust of wind came up and took their tent and blew it over knocking you out and breaking your glasses,the town’s insurance is not going to cover that. That would be the responsibility of the vendor.”
In some cases the injured party could come after the Town in the form of a lawsuit as well, which could come at a cost to taxpayers.
Other markets in the region like in Dryden and Kenora are run by farmer’s market groups and vendors are advised to have insurance which they can purchase through Farmers’ Markets Ontario (FMO).
Asked why the Town didn’t look into something before issuing the notice to vendors, Rob said the town doesn’t feel they should be supplying insurance for businesses.
“The town is not responsible for businesses to have insurance, we’re not responsible for covering insurance requirements,” Rob said. “We did this as a good faith measure to try and help out small businesses in the community, but it’s not really our role to start insuring private entities. In other communities, FMO is very much around. They’re working with Kenora, Dryden, and other places like that. But that’s through a farmer’s market group, not through the municipality.”
The town investigated options to be able to insure vendors at Rainy Lake Square and looked into policies through FMO and through their own, current insurer Intact Public Entities (IPE).
“We reached out to IPE, which is the town’s insurer, as well as Farmers’ Markets Ontario to see if they had a product that the town could take out or vendors could take out for insurance coverage,” Rob said. “Both entities did have a product and they were close in price. The big difference was exclusions. FMO was a little bit more money and there were some very specific exclusions that would not have provided coverage to certain vendors that we do see at the market… So we did focus our efforts a bit with IPE to see if we could get something in place for the vendors…”
The town was able to add on a policy which costs about $1,200 per year. Depending on traffic and vendors at the market that price can vary up or down slightly.
At this time the town does not charge a table fee for vendors at the market, however in an effort to offset some of the costs for the insurance a potential fee will be discussed by council in next week’s meeting.
With business license fees covered by the BIA and insurance through the Town of Fort Frances, the hope is that Thursday Markets at Rainy Lake Square can resume the success of years past.