The City of Yellowknife’s Win Your Space contest has returned for a second year, offering small businesses the chance to win free downtown space.

Anyone aged 18 or over from Yellowknife, Ndilo, or Dettah, with a sole proprietorship, partnership, or corporation, can apply to win a year’s leased space for free – in any one of seven participating buildings.

Contenders go head-to-head in a Dragons’ Den-style format, pitching their businesses and ideas to a panel of judges.

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More: Win Your Space information and how to enter

However, last year’s winner – the Ja-Pain Japanese bakery, whose victory was announced in August 2017 – has still to open its doors.

Seiji Suzuki’s grand prize for his Ja-Pain idea included a year’s free space valued at up to $48,000, up to $10,000 in start-up cash from BDIC, a free business licence, free chamber of commerce membership for a year, and a free website.

But Suzuki had trouble converting his chosen space in Centre Square Mall into a bakery and struggled to get the fire marshal to issue a permit, as reported by CBC in December.

In documents issued to councillors last week, City of Yellowknife staff said Ja-Pain’s problems are now resolved.

“Despite best efforts, as a result of permitting issues, the official opening of Ja‐Pain was delayed,” administrators acknowledged in a briefing note.

“However, with assistance from the City, Ja‐Pain was able to successfully resolve all permitting issues and is expected to open this month.”

Contest rules have been amended as a result of Ja-Pain’s predicament: there is no longer a hard-and-fast deadline by which the winning business must be operational, but competitors are asked to “make every reasonable effort to achieve a grand opening as outlined in the winner’s business plan start-up timeline.”

The City says the competition, run in conjunction with local business groups and the territorial government, is designed to inspire entrepreneurial residents and revitalize the downtown area.

In its first year, Win Your Space received 16 applications. Florist Let Me Knot, which won the second prize – a $5,000 credit toward a lease – has been operational since November on 52nd Street.