Late Friday afternoon, the city changed its tune in regards to its food truck policies on parkland.
Branch manager for city planning, Peter Ohm, said the city reviewed the situation after multiple inquiries from Global News on Friday, and decided to re-issue permits to vendors who already had permits to operate. He said no new applications for food truck vendors on parkland would be accepted.
“When we became aware there was concern around this, we took a broader view of it to really understand the implications of the decision in this case. We decided to go ahead and issue the permits,” he said.
“There are a diversity of views of what the right thing to do is towards commercialization of parkland. Until we go through a process to rationalize which particular commercial uses, their scale, their location… until we come up with a system that helps us make decisions around that, other than those that have already received a permit in the past, we’re going to discontinue the issuance of new permits for new vendors.”
Two food truck vendors are crying foul after they were denied permits to continue operating in Terwillegar Park.
Terri Holgerson, owner of Tangent’s Treats, had a permit to operate in the park’s parking lot last year and again this May.
“Our business model is based on providing treats for dogs as well as humans and we make an awesome pup-sicle,” said co-owner Terrie Holgerson, who along with her husband, converted an RV and put a kitchen in it.
“It’s a big seller this time of year, especially when the weather gets hot.”
The one-month permit she had with the city was about to expire, but when Holgerson tried to renew it on June 20, it was rejected.
“No explanation. We were blindsided. It was really like getting the rug pulled out from under our feet.”
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Holgerson said she has not received any information about why she was denied. She said the food truck is a source of income for herself and her husband.
“Our hard work has been negated and our profitability, our ability to make a living, pay our taxes, pay our permitting fees and everything has been reduced by 75 per cent,” she said.
“It will be very difficult, almost impossible [to stay afloat].”
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Ian Murray, founder of The DaVinci Cone, said he has been operating his ice cream truck in Terwillegar Park for three years. Heading into his fourth year, Murray said he applied for a seasonal permit but got a one-month permit instead.
“I was very disappointed because I had created my business plan for the year based on business as usual at Terwillegar Park. It certainly set the cat amongst the pigeons for me,” he said, adding he then asked the city for an explanation.
He provided Global News with an email from the city’s vending team stating the city is taking direction from the river valley park’s directors.
“[H]aving vendors within the park area does not conform with the overall purpose of the park. Additionally, there are several events that are taking place at the park during the summer, and they would like to avoid an overlap between the events and vendors at these locations,” the email reads.
Murray disagrees with the explanation.
“I’m just providing an ice cream cone for people on a hot day. I don’t think it’s overly intrusive and we never move off of the parking lot. We’re just taking up two spots in the parking lot,” he said.
Holgerson also disputes the city’s reasoning.
“Terwillegar in particular does not have services. It’s important that we be there. People are used to us to reward good behaviour of dogs and to be part of the community,” she said.
Global News reached out to the city’s licensing department for further clarification but did not receive a response by publication time.
Ward 11 councillor Mike Nickel, when told about the situation, said bureaucracies are designed to say no.
“That’s a challenge of government in general. So I’m always pushing the bureaucrats to say: ‘How do we get to a yes’? And not have that knee-jerk, and say no so it’s not a problem or not a challenge,” he said.
“Are food trucks under attack? Are we sliding backwards because we’re not being allowed to operate where they’ve operated before? So this is an odd one and we’re not getting a straight answer because it seems to be crossing a couple departments.”
Murray said the decision will hit his business hard; he said it is likely too late in the season to apply for and receive a permit to operate in another park within the city.
As for Holgerson, she said her food truck has received invitations to operate outside of the city.
“If it’s too hard to do business in the City of Edmonton, there’s lots of options for moving out of town.”