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Licensing committee approves food truck regulations

Customers order from Caplansky's food truck Thunderin' Thelma on Aug. 20, 2011 in the Distillery District in Toronto. Courtesy of Ontario Food Trucks

Food trucks are getting the preliminary green light to set up shop in more locations in Toronto.

The city’s Licensing and Standards Committee has approved new regulations on Tuesday that would see food trucks set up anywhere in the city – as long as they’re 50 metres away from a restaurant.

The new rules give food trucks over 580 spots to do business and they’ll be allowed to stay in any one spot for up to five hours.

The food trucks will be permitted to operate out of any pay-and-display parking spot in the city.

Food truck permits won’t come cheap at just over $5,000 a year.

If approved by city council next month, the new regulations go into effect May 15.

Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly isn’t too keen on keeping food trucks away from restaurants.

“If you’re going to have a set of rules, then apply them right across the city without any exceptions,” Kelly said on Tuesday.

However, Coun. Doug Ford likes the 50-metre restriction as a way to cut down on unfair competition from food trucks.

“You have these restaurateurs that are paying high taxes and rely on the flow of people, and it’s proven that it does affect restaurants,” Coun. Ford said.

John Nunziata, who serves as a lawyer for the Ontario Restaurant Hotel and Motel Association’s office in Toronto, said “food trucks will be in conflict with one another, in terms of finding the choice spots.”

“It will be in conflict with restaurants,” he added.

Janice Solomon of the Entertainment District Business Improvement Association echoed the opinion, calling it unfair competition for established restaurants.

“Vendors compete with our property-tax paying, rent-paying businesses, business operators who have a vested interest in the neighbourhood 24-7,” Solomon said.

However, food truck owner Zane Caplansky said there’s no reason why the mobile eateries can’t exist in harmony with restaurants.

“I’ve never heard of a single restaurant that was driven out of business or damaged by food trucks,” Caplansky said.

“In fact, the opposite is true. Food trucks bring people out to eat.”

“The customers that eat restaurants are different than the customers that eat at food trucks,” he added.

He argues that with the high concentration of restaurants in the downtown, the 50-metre restriction will effectively ban food trucks from the core.

The proposed bylaw would also allow local business improvement areas to pressure the city to ban food trucks from certain areas.

Food truck owners fear that will give restaurants veto power over where the mobile eateries can set up.

There are also concerns with the annual fees — it would cost over $5,000 for a vendor permit, plus the cost of parking.

Council will have the final say on the new food truck regulations at its meeting in April.

Meantime, an Indiegogo campaign is hoping to raise money to hire a lobbyist for food truck vendors.

The group wants crowd-fund contributions to help move their interests along, as city officials debate the new street food vending rules.

So far, the campaign has received $400 — with a goal of $15,000.

Later on Tuesday, the committee is expected to look at a binding resolution process to solve neighbourhood feuds.

Click here to read the agenda items.

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