Six things you should know about Toronto’s proposed new food truck rules

Six things you should know about Toronto’s proposed new food truck rules

Introducing: Hogtown Smoke
(Image: Karolyne Ellacott)

Yesterday, the city released a report recommending some changes to Toronto’s antidiluvian food-truck policy. The key components of the plan were leaked to the public weeks ago, at which time they were celebrated by food-truck proponents. Now, though, we know that the initial reports omitted a few small but crucial details, some of which could potentially undermine the entire scheme. Here, six things you should know about the city’s plan to turn Toronto into a more hospitable habitat for roving food vendors.

1. Food trucking will remain a costly business
The proposed policy sets out $5,066.69 as the oddly specific sum truck owners will have to pay to secure a vending permit—and that’s before thousands of dollars in potential parking fees. To put the numbers in perspective, the Star reports that food truckers in Austin, Texas currently shell out about $600, all-in.

2. Trucks will be able to park all over the place
At first glance, the rules seem to be free of the miles of red tape that have kept Toronto truckers in a bureaucratic straitjacket for the past decade. The report recommends that licensed trucks be permitted to operate freely out of private parking lots, and from all pay-and-display parking spaces, subject to certain caveats.

3. Except not really
On closer inspection, though, the caveats are pretty limiting. Food trucks can’t park closer than 50 metres to any operating restaurant, or closer than 30 metres to a school or place of worship. Also, no more than two trucks can operate at any time on a single block, and no truck can stay for longer than three hours in one place. Given the limited number of non-restaurant-adjacent areas downtown, we suspect these rules may incite some turbulent truck-on-truck territorial battles.

4. BIA boards and local businesses have veto power
Here’s the clincher—the thing that some would say undercuts the entire deal: whenever the city gets an application to designate an area a “mobile vending zone,” the local BIA board of management and all surrounding businesses will be able to object to the application. If an objection is received, the application will automatically be denied, and the applicant will have 30 days to appeal the decision. Any BIA management board can also preemptively apply to have an area designated a “restricted zone,” in which case no food trucks will be able to do business there.

5. Truck owners aren’t impressed
“Exasperated disappointment” may be the phrase that best captures the overall reaction of Toronto food-truck owners, many of whom have been especially critical of the BIA veto power. Talking to the Star, Hogtown Smoke owner Scott Fraser was less than optimistic about the scheme: “The BIAs are caving to the restaurants who don’t want the food trucks there. Therefore, what BIA is going to let us set up where we need to set up, which is where the people are. What they’re going to do is give us a little hole-in-the-wall parking lot, a mile and a half away from the nearest office building.”

6. Things could still change—for better or worse
The recommendations will be presented to the city’s licensing and standards committee on March 18, after which they’ll likely be handed off to city council. The policy could change during the decision-making process, especially if truck owners show up at city hall and make their opinions known (which they almost certainly will). If city council approves the policy in some form, the suggested implementation date is May 2014.

You can read the entire city staff report here.