Edmonton, Alberta: Dispute Between Food Truck, Restaurant Highlights Need for Bylaws

Kara Fenske, one of the owners of Drift Food Truck, takes a customer's order at their downtown location. Photograph by: Edmonton Journal - EdmontonJournal.com

By Michael Gregory | EdmontonJournal.com

Kara Fenske, one of the owners of Drift Food Truck, takes a customer's order at their downtown location. Photograph by: Edmonton Journal - EdmontonJournal.com

EDMONTON – The owners of a popular downtown mobile eatery don’t plan to move any time soon, despite a complaint lodged to the city by a neighbouring restaurant.

The Drift Food Truck, owned by Nevin and Kara Fenske and famed for gourmet sandwiches and fresh cut fries, was asked to relocate a few weeks ago by the city’s sustainable development department after a complaint from Grandma Lee’s Bakery Cafe, located inside an office tower at the corner of 100th Avenue and 108th Street, where Drift regularly sets up shop.

Jim Timmons, president of Grandma Lee’s, said it’s unfair that the truck can “cherry-pick the business” and operate in a prime neighbourhood without having to pay the same taxes.

“I pay substantial taxes for premium real-estate every day of the year,” Timmons said. “If the food truck wants to pay the same rates for taxes and for rent that I pay for premium location I don’t mind the competition.”

Timmons said he brought the issue to the city’s attention when Drift opened up in front of the building a few weeks ago. It only went public this week when the Fenskes took to Twitter to let customers know they would be relocating.

But now the Drift owners say they’re not going anywhere. They also say the city needs clear bylaws to fairly handle such disputes.

Nevin said the city told him, “there wasn’t much written and what was written said, if there was a dispute, it would go to the restaurant.”

“You need to put bylaws in place to be fair to everyone, not just one side,” he said.

At lunchtime on Wednesday, the Fenskes served a long line of regulars outside their big green truck.

They say they’ve been operating along 108th Street since last June and relocated a block south to their current location in early May when the city shut down the block they were parked on for construction.

Nevin said if they move again it will likely hurt business.

“We’ve built up a clientele … we keep moving away from our clientele who are very loyal to us,” said Nevin.

Among the customers who patiently waited for their food was René Gobeil, who said food trucks are a growing part of Edmonton culture that need more support.

“I feel really bad that these guys are going to be relocated but their food is so good, I will hunt them down,” Gobeil said. “It’s a peaceful solution, but I don’t think it’s the best solution.”

According to city guidelines, a vendor may be asked to relocate if a conflict arises with neighbouring businesses.

No formal appeal process exists to contest a decision made by the city in such instances, said Scott Mackie, manager of current planning.

“The best situation is that we find a compromise,” he said. “The mobile vendors do have that opportunity to locate to prime locations within the city that are not to the detriment of another business.”

Nevin Fenske said they’ll continue to talk with the city and appeal any move from their current location.

“Just because we have wheels doesn’t mean you can push us around.