By Neco Cockburn | Ottawa Citizen
OTTAWA — The location of a new food truck in the Glebe “is stealing from our family,” says a restaurateur who took to the street Friday to express anger over its spot north of his business.
The truck got the space as part of a city initiative this summer to introduce 17 new food trucks and carts, though some have rolled out slower than expected.
Loiselle said he has no problem with the food truck or its owners, but the location eats into his lunch crowd when there’s already little foot traffic in that part of the neighbourhood. More consultation should have occurred about proposed spaces, he said.
The truck arrived in June, and after raising concerns to his councillor, city staff and the Glebe Business Improvement Area, Loiselle was frustrated and wanted to make people aware of the issue, he said.
Friday, a large sign went up in front of the restaurant stating that the “city & BIA sanctioned food truck location is stealing from our family,” and outlining the high costs of the business compared to a food truck licence fee. (The restaurant had taken down the sign by Saturday morning, saying it was only intended as part of an initial “media blast” on the issue to raise awareness in the area.)
Under the city’s rules for the new food-truck spaces, affected BIAs and the ward councillor were required to approve a location once the space met criteria that included being more than 46 metres from an existing food premises.
The space on Bank Street “is in compliance with the City’s restrictive policy on locations,” wrote city staff in response to questions.
“Healthy competition is a hallmark of the retail food business and our street food program builds in more protection for surrounding businesses than the free market does.
“The location also has the support of the local BIA and Councillor and has had no opposition from anyone except the Farm Team and only then very recently,” the email stated, adding that a list of available spaces was made public in December and included “a potential location in the Glebe between the Queensway and Clemow Avenue.”
The BIA and councillor approved the specific location in early June, the city said. Capital Coun. David Chernushenko and Christine Leadman, the merchant association’s executive director, could not immediately be reached for comment Friday afternoon.
Loiselle, who’s also a part owner of Woody’s Pub on Elgin Street, said the Glebe restaurant’s location saw high turnover before he started FarmTeam about 1 1/2 years ago, and “the pedestrian traffic is a common denominator in their failure.
“We have mild success, and we’re seeing some traction, and that (truck location) is an element that is damaging to the risk mitigation that I put together.”
Meanwhile, the truck’s owners said they simply set up in the location that the city gave them. The truck was supposed to go on Argyle Avenue, just east of O’Connor Street, but its takeout window was on the wrong side for the space on the one-way street.
After a different truck withdrew from the space on Bank Street, the Red Roaster got it and opened in mid-June.
The truck is doing well and they like the location, said co-owner Glen Galbraith. It sells out most days, averaging 60 to 100 people, he said.
The food truck can bring people to the area, said Galbraith.
“I see it as a pie that continues to get bigger,” he said.
“I don’t think that we’re specifically stealing people from FarmTeam or any of the other restaurants. Certainly some might decide ‘let’s have something quick’ as opposed to a sit-down, and I get that, but I think, overall, it will continue to be a draw to the area.”
Galbraith said he hopes Loiselle’s business is successful. Still, the numbers on the sign told “one side of the story” and didn’t take into account all of the costs of running the food truck, or the investment in it of close to $150,000, Galbraith said.