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City to review policy allowing mobile food vendors/restaurants

Kyra Hoggan
By Kyra Hoggan
May 22nd, 2013

An upset letter from a local restaurant owner has council considering the implications of the number of mobile food vendors they license in the city.

Element owner Florio Vassilakakis sent a letter arguing against allowing mobile vendors/restaurants (the food trucks you can see along Columbia Avenue), prompting city staff to write a report suggesting the current bylaw (which has been in place since 1980) be reviewed and updated.

Councillor Deb McIntosh said she has spoken to other business owners as well, who are unhappy with the status quo, and suggested the city refrain from issuing any more such licenses (keeping the two now in town) this year, and rewriting the bylaw with a limit of two per season.

“It’s hurting our local business, who pay taxes year round and pay employees all year,” she said. “If the mobile vendors want to be here, they should be paying a premium for it.”

She also said a review is an unnecessary waste of staff time and resources, as are comparisons with what other communities are doing.

“What difference does it make, what other cities are doing? This is our city, and we know what our businesses want,” she said. “Let’s just get it done.

Councillor Dan Rye agreed there should be a limit, but argued they should put the limit to six, and after some dickering, Rye put forward a notice of motion (to be considered at council’s next regular meeting) that the limit be set at three for this year, with the bylaw to be reviewed and updated (with reports from city staff) before next year’s season.

The city currently charges $95 for this kind of license.

To read the city staff report, go to http://www.castlegar.ca/pdfs/regular_agenda_21-May-13.pdf and scroll down to page 73.

To read the entire letter from Vassilakakis, see below:

 

May 14, 2013

 

I am writing this email to covey my disappointment for the City Approved food trucks in town. Why in such a small community, where all the restaurants and food establishments battle daily, are we approving Food Trucks? While I can see value in a city with hustle and bustle and thousands of people roaming the streets (like Vancouver), what is the benefit here? (By the way, I still don’t really agree with them in Vancouver, however they do add to the street food culture, something that we will never be able to create here).

Why does it seem ok to allow food vendors on the sidewalk (we certainly wouldn’t be approving trucks competing with other business types)? All of these restaurants/bars/pubs (including mine) pay an significant amount of Property tax and do business all year round and contribute to the local economy (through job creation and giving back). Then during the busy summer months we approve a few vendors for a nominal fee to come and steal business. The city makes a few hundred dollars, meanwhile jobs are on the line and thousands of dollars in lost revenue for established eateries.

What kind of support is that? Two weeks in a row I have had less than 10 people at lunch on Tuesday, meanwhile the Taco truck down the street is lined up with up to 20ppl ll lunch hour. This is not just about me (I will be fine), but all the other restaurants in town too. It is also about the principle of it. If having Food trucks on the street was a boon to the city and had other benefits, then I would be all for it. These food trucks are not adding to people coming out for food, they are not adding meaningfully to the city’s revenues, they are not creating jobs and they are pissing off local tax paying businesses. What is the motivation for the city to do this? I don’t get it…

Some people may argue about limiting free market enterprise, however, this is more about supporting established businesses. If that Taco Truck or Twisted Thyme wanted to open up business in a building and rent a spot directly next to me or any other restaurant, then so be it. We are not talking about suppressing free market… because we don’t live in a free market world. It is a pseudo free market. Lots of rules and regulations to follow. I can’t open and serve a beer at 5 am and I can’t open before 9am. That is not free market. I can’t pay $2 an hour and I can’t cook a burger to medium rare. We live in a very restricted socio/capitalist society at best.

This is not about unfair advantage or unfair competition. I have zero problem with competition, in fact I welcome it. However, this is about the City of Castlegar making policy that conflicts with the long term health of businesses in this community. This Taco Truck is here for a quick buck. It doesn’t add to the tax base and it does’t fill any hole in the marketplace Eateries in this city have invested in this community for the long term. I ask the question, what are the benefits of Food trucks to the City of Castlegar?

Thanks,

Florio Vassilakakis


 

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