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Toronto weighs in on street food debate

Toronto residents had their first chance on Tuesday night to weigh in on a street food debate as the city begins public consultations.

After last summer’s food truck pilot project, which saw vendors in public parks, and a fall consultation with stakeholders like food truck and business owners, the city is opening up its review of street food and food truck bylaws to the public.

The second session will be held Monday. Click here for details.

Several owners of popular food trucks around the GTA, including Hogtown Smoke and Fidel Gastros, attended the meeting to discuss the issues they face daily with current bylaw restrictions and offer thoughts on how the situation can improve.

“I think overall the biggest concern is that I think the same conversations have been had over and over again with food truck bylaws,” explained Matthew Basile, co-owner of Fidel Gastros. “Yes progress has been made but at a very slow pace.”

Basile said he felt last year’s pilot project was a good way to bring more attention to the wide variety of culinary offerings available at food trucks but the restricted locations of the trucks made many inaccessible to the public.

He added that conversations like these, between vendors and the city, are a good start but that there needs to be more progress made.

“My biggest concern is that if we’re going to take steps forward they have to be the right steps forward,” Basile said. “I think today is a very big right step in the right direction. I just hope it doesn’t get bogged down with details. I just want to see conclusions.”

Carleton Grant with the city of Toronto said he believes these public consultations show that they are willing to listen and collaborate with industry stakeholders.

“We’re here to listen to them and what we’re trying to do is take all that in and have that inform the recommendations that we bring forward to committee and council,” said Grant.

He added that the city is also looking at vendor opportunities in expanding areas of the city such as North York, Scarborough and Etobicoke.

Currently, food trucks aren’t allowed within 25 metres of a restaurant serving similar food. That could be moved to 250 metres.

Food trucks are also limited to private parking lots and special events. The city’s Municipal Licensing and Standards Division is considering changes to the space carts can occupy on sidewalks, as well as other issues:

  • minimum distance that street food vendors must maintain when operating near established restaurants;
  • role of Business Improvement Areas (BIAs) in the permit issuance process;
  • current moratorium on street food vending in the downtown area and limiting the number of vendor permits issued;
  • opportunities for vending on public property (city parks, public spaces, right-of-way);
  • opportunities for vending on private property (parking lots);
  • improved vending opportunities for mobile food vendors such as food trucks.

The Licensing and Standards Committee will consider a staff report in spring 2014.