Licensing committee looks at expanding Toronto food trucks

Watch the video above: There’s a food fight brewing over food trucks in Toronto. Jackson Proskow reports. 

TORONTO – The food truck business within Toronto’s borders could change substantially as the city’s Municipal Licensing and Standards Committee reviews a report outlining how the industry could be expanded.

The report recommends easing the city’s current street vending by-law which could more than double the number of food trucks licenses granted to operators compared to 2013.

“The path to a street food experience in Toronto that truly matches its celebrated diversity is through easing restrictions and creating opportunities for vendors to make their businesses easily accessible to the public,” the staff report said.

Under the proposal, these vehicles must be at least 50-metres from any restaurant and at least 30-metres from school properties.

However, one stipulation would be that local Business Improvement Areas (BIAs) would have the right to refuse trucks in certain areas; a key inclusion Toronto’s Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly opposes.

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“If you’re going to have a standard, a set of rules, apply them across the city without any exceptions,” Kelly told reporters at city hall on Tuesday. “If you give people the right to opt out of the system, then you may be defeating the very purpose that is promoting the legislation in the first place.”

But Councillor Doug Ford suggested every part of the city was “a little different” and should be able to determine locally whether or not food trucks would fit in their neighbourhood.

He added that unfettered growth of food trucks in the city could hurt restaurateurs.

“I think it’s a little unfair in the fact that 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,” he said. “In saying that, there [are] opportunities for food trucks throughout the city, similar to the ones outside city hall that everyone likes. So there are areas, we can come up with a happy compromise.”

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The city initiated a food truck pilot project in five parks last summer, a plan which was spearheaded by councillors Mary-Margaret McMahon and Josh Colle.

Both councillors have been pushing Municipal Licensing and Standards to cut the red tape they say has been holding back this sector of the food industry.

Right now, food trucks are only allowed to operate in private parking lots and at events, often facing large rental or participant fees.

Even those who have a City of Toronto permit are prohibited from selling food on city property.

The proposal to expand food trucks will likely be presented at council in April.

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