On Tuesday the first of two meetings was held at City Hall reviewing the street food vending bylaws in Toronto. Stakeholders in the street food vending industry as well as members of the general public were in attendance to weigh in on the proposed bylaw amendments and the state of the growing (yet unsatisfyingly restrictive) street food and food truck business here in Hogtown.
“The goal is to create a harmonized, city-wide street food vending bylaw that balances the interests of all stakeholders and encourages a vibrant street food experience for the public,” claimed the City of Toronto website.
Though the proposals discussed at the meeting are far from final, the pundits and the public had a great deal to comment on. Luke Robertson, Senior Policy and Research Officer of Municipal Licensing and Standards (ML&S) for the City of Toronto, moderated the open-forum discussion. Following this week’s session and the one to be held on January 20th, a month and a half long deliberation period will be held before decisions are announced in March.
Among eight key considerations discussed during the meeting, the future of food truck regulations was most widely addressed. Other points that could influence the permitting process included vending locations around the city (including private property), the potential for undesignated vending permits, and the likely lifting of the moratorium for street vendors in the downtown core.
The proposal to lift the moratorium on street food vending in Wards 20, 27 and 28 is perhaps the most exciting prospect for the lustful street-foodies of Toronto. Likely through a phased approach, the downtown core could be seeing 10 new permits per year over the next three years (5 sidewalk, 5 curbside). The number of new permits issued in other wards will be limited to 20.
The next issue will be who will get these permits – which will be drawn through a lottery system – and what restrictions new (and existing) vendors might be subjected to.
Shontelle Pinch of Gourmet Bitches food truck voiced her concern: “First priority should be given to current permit holders – those who’ve fought the battles for new entrants into the market,” she said while addressing Mr. Robertson.
Where and how permit holders will be allowed to operate is also up for debate. Creating “Undesignated Vending Area Permits” may be the next, and most impacting step in the growth of the mobile street food industry in Toronto.
“In the undesignated options, vendors would be required to obtain a business license, and would be subject to regulations similar to designated location permits, with the major exception that they would not be required to vend from one place all the time,” The City stated in their printed notes.
Pioneering food truck meccas like Los Angeles and Portland allow their food trucks to freely roam the city, while here in the Great White North even Vancouver has similar liberties. With two options for Undesignated Vending on the table and one for Designated Roaming Spots, many current Toronto food truck operators, including Hogtown Smoke’s Scott Fraser and Fidel Gastro’s Matt Basile, took to the mic, voting to roll out with the first of the choices.
Options #1 and #2 (Undesignated Vending Area Permits) only differ in the locations where vending is permitted. Option #1 is a city wide option favoured by nearly all the vocal street food vendors in attendance. Option #2 only considers vending outside of Wards 20, 27 and 28 (downtown) – meaning street food would still be restricted in the city’s core.
In each scenario, vendors would be required to find and pay for two metered parking spaces and follow the rules for on-street metered parking in that space (e.g. 3 hour max). The number of vendors in any one area would be limited to two per block and they would be required to park 50 meters from any other food truck. Undesignated permit holders would also be limited to areas that are at least 50 meters from a licensed eating establishment or designated vending area.
The final option includes the creation of 25 ML&S designated roaming spots. Each location would be located 50 metes from licensed eating establishments and vending areas and would still carry the same 3-hour maximum.
Whatever the outcome of these final meetings, Toronto is sure to see a change in the landscape of the street food scene for the upcoming summer. Whatever your opinion, the distance between a food truck and a restaurant (or another food truck) need not be so polarizing. Perhaps where a food truck can park should not be so limiting.
As Basile himself proudly exclaimed, “Street food is actually a business that can become part of a community.” I, for one, am waiting anxiously to welcome it into mine.