An informal gathering of car buffs won’t be allowed this Friday, Aug. 7 at the parking lot of the Langley Mall due to COVID concerns.
The weekly meet ups, which have no central organizer, had been taking place in Surrey in the 2800 block 192nd Street, until early June when the RCMP set up blockades, citing a lack of social distancing and past irresponsible driving behaviours.
The meet moved to the lot in front of the empty Army and Navy store in the 5500 block of 201st Street and was held there through most of July.
But this week, RCMP Cpl. Holly Largy posted a message on a fan page for participants in the meets.
“Langley RCMP has been engaged by the mall ownership who have raised concerns your meeting is contrary to the Provincial Health Order, therefore your gathering will not be allowed to proceed this Friday,” Largy wrote. “Police and Bylaws [officers] will be present at the request of the Mall to ensure the Provincial Health Order is adhered to.”
The order bans gatherings of more than 50 people.
Richardt Scholz, a longtime car enthusiast and Langley resident who produces the BC Classic and Custom Car show, was disappointed by the loss of a space.
He’s been attending car meet ups for close to 40 years, he said.
The informal car meet up has moved around Langley and Surrey for years depending on where an empty parking lot could be found, from the former Java Hut site on the Langley Bypass to the lot of the now-closed ICBC centre on 203rd Street in Langley City. At the latter site, cars gathered for years without serious issues.
But at the 192nd Street site, some drivers had drawn attention from police for what the Surrey RCMP called irresponsible and illegal driving behaviour.
Scholz admitted there were issues with a few drivers at that site.
“Up at the complex at 192nd, it was getting out of hand,” he said.
But the Langley Mall site was ideal, he said.
He and other long-time hot rodders warned the drivers to be on their best behaviour – and pointed out the Langley RCMP Community Police Office just across the road from the parking lot.
“Not burnouts, don’t do that here,” Scholz said was the advice.
The site was the best-behaved location he’s ever seen, said Scholz.
He’s hoping the site can eventually become a host location for a car meet up.
Right now, drivers on the Facebook fan page for the meeting are discussing possible alternate sites, including the lot of Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) or the Cineplex Cinema in North Langley.
KPU was quick to quash the idea of using their space, said Marlyn Graziano, vice-president of external affairs.
““As part of our COVID-19 response plan, which includes adherence to all provincial health orders, KPU is not allowing gatherings of any size on its campus parking lots,” Graziano said.
“As far as I am aware, we haven’t received an official request to use our parking lot for these meet-ups, but given that the group seems to be searching for a new site, I thought it best to make it clear that our property cannot be used for this purpose.”
Although the gathering had 100 to 150 cars, Scholz said the people at the Langley Mall were keeping their distance – there weren’t the usual handshakes at the pre-COVID meet ups.
He believes it’s no different than having 100 or more cars in the parking lot of a grocery store or a hardware store.
While the meetings may be over at the Langley Mall for now, Scholz said he and others are considering finally creating a formal organization, once the COVID-19 pandemic is over and people can gather more freely.
They’re hoping to create a free, insured event with the buy-in of a parking lot owner and local car clubs.