City Hall Awards Street Vendor Licenses in Vancouver

Dana Whaley's Off the Wagon's business was awarded a vendor license Monday. Photograph by: Dan Toulgoet, Vancouver Courier

By Cheryl Rossi |


Dana Whaley's Off the Wagon's business was awarded a vendor license Monday. Photograph by: Dan Toulgoet, Vancouver Courier

Officials surprised by big food vending trucks

Spicy Korean fusion tacos, matzo balls and sweet and savoury stuffed Indian paratha flatbread should soon be served on downtown streets.

The city announced the winners of this year’s 19 new street food vending licenses in a chilly morning downpour behind city hall April 4. The winners will join 17 food vendors who won spots last year in a city lottery. The city hopes to see the new vendors operating by early summer. In total, there will be about 100 vendors on city streets.

Sadhu Johnston, deputy city manager, said staff short-listed about 100 applicants to 54 contenders. A panel of judges reviewed the applications for their business plans and food and referred about 25 finalists back to staff, which considered the panel’s recommendations alongside results of the city’s online survey. The survey on street food garnered nearly 2,000 responses and revealed strong public demand for Mexican, Indian, Thai, barbecue, organic and healthy foods.

The city didn’t disclose the points received by the winning vendors, but those with the highest scores had the first choice in spots. All of the 2011 victorious vendors chose locations downtown with one in Gastown, although spots in other business districts were options.

Johnston said the city was surprised so many vendors chose big food vending trucks rather than carts. One quarter of the vendors approved in the last two years will occupy curbside spots instead of sidewalks. Johnston estimated half of this year’s winning vendors are food business newbies and half have a food business background.

Some applicants secured two locations this year. Re-Up BBQ, which won a spot in last year’s lottery, secured a second spot near Robson Square where it will sling beef brisket sandwiches and chili.

Roaming Dragon won a spot for Asian fusion, including pork sliders, soba noodle soup and duck salad at Burrard and Smithe, plus a second spot for comfort foods including shepherd’s pie and matzo balls at Burrard and Robson.

Ryan Spong, a partner with Tacofino, says it makes good financial sense to run two trucks from one commissary kitchen. Jason Sussman of Tacofino will operate Kiss Kiss Banh Banh, selling Vietnamese subs, salads and coffee at Howe and Robson. Kaeli Robinsong, his wife, will sell Baja-inspired tacos at Denman and Davie.

Andrew Fielding, owner of The Kaboom Box, which sells Oceanwise Certified seafood, burgers and poutine at Granville and Robson, said when it comes to earning a living from a street food business, “Let’s just say I’m an optimist.”

Off the Wagon tacos, which was unlucky in the lottery last year, won a spot this year. “We’re totally stoked,” said Dana Whaley.

Off the Wagon chose a curbside spot at Howe and Dunsmuir to offer flexibility in case construction pops up. Cartel Taco will sell Korean fusion tacos at Dunsmuir and Richards. Chawalla will sell stuffed paratha at Howe and Robson. Other new vendors will sell Greek food, English-style kebabs, grilled cheese sandwiches and Japanese takoyaki, or octopus balls, with juice and smoothies in Gastown. None of the vendors said they would sell items that cost more than $10.

Charles Gauthier, executive director of the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association, said street food trucks and carts would compliment brick-and-mortar restaurants in Vancouver and that street food vendors are “integral to the downtown economy.”