Food trucks speak up at town hall meeting on new vending bylaw

By on October 23, 2013

Toronto City HallThe room was packed last night at City Hall’s town hall meeting inviting stakeholders to share their POV on how changing the city’s street food vending bylaws will affect their businesses and communities. Several gourmet food truck owners were on hand including Scott Fraser from Hogtown Smoke, Shontelle Pinch from Gourmet Bitches and Tamara Chaikin from Localista.

The 40-strong crowd also included ice-cream truck drivers from the 905, restaurant owners, food cart vendors, and reps from the Street Food Vendors Association and the Ontario Restaurant, Hotel & Motel Association (ORHMA).

Luke Robertson, senior policy & research officer with for Toronto’s Municipal Licensing and Standards committee chaired the meeting. Robertson started things off with a bang by saying the committee will be recommending that the city drop its controversial refreshment vehicle assistant licence that requires food truck workers to buy an annual $347 licence from the city. (That fee is for a first time licence – a renewal costs $252.78) The news met with cheers and one shout of: “it’s about time.” Robertson said these town hall meetings will be part of the research that will inform the city’s new harmonized bylaw on street food vending, which he says will be ready in draft form by March 2014.

Here’s a snapshot of what else was said:

Scott Fraser, Hogtown Smoke truck owner (talking about how far food trucks should be required to park from brick and mortar restaurants):   “The reality is, nobody’s going to walk by my truck on the way to Mortons and say: “Damn, I’m not going for a steak. I’m going to have a pulled pork sandwich tonight.” They are completely different markets. I think we need to make a set of rules (about distance from restaurants). And whether that’s 25 metres, 50 metres or 100 metres, I really don’t care. Let’s just set a set of rules and let us roam. Because these trucks need to be out more than once a day or once a week.”

Nick Schefter, Grange Community Association, (concerned about residential garages being used as storage and prep kitchens for hot dog carts): “What I would like to see included as a condition of licensing is the understanding that there is an official, licensed, inspected place of business. When you see a hotdog vending cart on the street, they don’t just vanish into thin air at the end of the day. Because many vendors live in the outer suburbs, their carts end up being stored in our neighbourhood in rented residential garages. What goes on in those garages? Where are their fridges and freezers? There is no running water. There are no drains. There’s no washroom. There’s no kitchen. They’re not inspected and yet the food that we buy – at least from the hot dog vendors – is stored and in some cases, prepared there.”

Tamara Chaikin, owner of Localista food truck (on the costs of running a food truck): “The overhead on these things is extremely high. On my truck I have a commercial kitchen so I have to keep it plugged in or else I have to run a noisy generator, which is expensive. I have another commercial kitchen from which to prepare the food because of space limitations on the truck. More expenses. And yet, right now it’s very very difficult to sell anywhere in Toronto where I can make a profit. I’d love to see the city to help us out there.  Thank you for doing this and I hope it comes to something.”

Debra DeMonte, Toronto regional chair of ORHMA and owner of The Longest Yard Restaurants: “We’re particularly concerned for our mom and pop establishments with take-out, you know where you take your cup and you walk away with it. They feel that there should be some distance required (between the food trucks and bricks and mortar restaurants.) so that we can work together as a business community. So proximity is key ”

Photo by Mars Observer in the blogTO Flickr pool

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