EDMONTON -- Some local restaurants are choosing not to partake in this year’s foodie fest due to safety concerns and financial circumstances.

Taste of Edmonton, Canada’s largest outdoor food festival, returns to Churchill Square on Thursday, featuring 52 local food vendors. 

That's down from 69 total vendors in 2019. While organizers turned some businesses away to space vendors further apart, there are also some who chose not to take part.

“Taste of Edmonton is a really great promotional event that is good in the summer, but this year with the pandemic and sales being down, it is really hard to justify the higher fees that go in with it,” said Henry Song, owner of Bouk Fresh Korean Kitchen.

Restaurants who chose to be part of the festival were required to make the commitment in December 2020.

“The biggest things for small businesses like us is that I have to give you that money in advance,” Song added.

The decision to not commit to the downtown event was based off of financial uncertainty. For Song, he says his restaurant’s revenue has decreased by approximately 30 per cent.

“How do you commit to that?” Song said. “How do you know what the summer is going to look like?”

Amsale Sumamo, owner and chef of Langano Skies, said it was difficult to make a decision on whether or not to participate in the festival during the height of the pandemic. Despite the festival being a good promotional opportunity for the Ethiopian restaurant, she said it was too difficult to decide months prior.

“We have been hit really badly. I mean, every restaurant industry had been hit really bad,” she said.

Yet, that's why one operator decided to come back tot he festival. 

"The more years you do it, the more following you build up," New Orleans Shaved Ice's Rahul Bhatnaga told CTV News Edmonton. 

"You're just setting yourself up for more success."

Despite the decision for some restaurants not to participate, the festival completely sold out with restaurant and food truck partners.

Nineteen of the 52 vendors are making their Taste of Edmonton debut. 

There is currently a waitlist for the 2022 event.

With files from Jay Rosove