Gorilla Cheese – Shut Down!!

The folks at the Gorilla Cheese truck were busy from the start of the Food Truck Rally at Celebration Square in Mississauga on Sept. 30, 2011. (Peter Power/ The Globe and Mail)

By Team Gorilla | Gorilla Cheese

The folks at the Gorilla Cheese truck were busy from the start of the Food Truck Rally at Celebration Square in Mississauga on Sept. 30, 2011. (Peter Power/ The Globe and Mail)

Some words regarding Canada’s First Grilled Cheese food truck.

Our service yesterday at Bell Arte Camera provided the perfect scenario to demonstrate how the current bylaws in Hamilton concerning food trucks are restrictive, unfair and downright ludicrous.

Bell Arte is an excellent camera shop at 85 Ottawa St. This weekend, they are celebrating their 40th Anniversary with a tent sale in their parking lot, and they asked us to come down for Friday and feed the photographic deal-hunters and the cheese-loving masses. It was a successful promotion, with the parking lot full of people, the tents abuzz and the store filled with customers. Owner Robert Bagliolid bought grilled cheeses for his customers, the staff was fed and the customers who came for grilled cheese curiously milled about, taking in the store and the great deals. We were busy, Bell Arte was busy and the people were having fun.

Tam Gorilla

At 2pm, two bylaw officers drove to the front of the store where Susan (@theblondegurl) and myself (@GorillaGraeme) were taking a short break. They said they had received a complaint from a restaurant that we were operating within 100 metres of them. We’ve operated many times on Ottawa Street, not only at their incredible Sew Hungry Streetfood Festivals, but also for curbside services. They’ve always gone without a hitch, and the surrounding businesses (including restaurants) are very supportive. We admit, we took that support for granted on this day, and neglected to approach a fish & chip shop across the street from Bell Arte for their permission to operate. After talking to the bylaw officers, who were helpful and understanding, we agreed to shut down before our service was scheduled to be over.

This instance became the perfect example of why we are trying so hard to change the food truck bylaws in Hamilton. Why should a business not have the ability to use a food truck to promote their event? Food trucks are an amazing promotional tool for a business of any type. That business can tap into the social network of the food truck to bring additional people to their store. The food truck is provided a venue to sell their wares. The people get the chance to get great food and discover that business and the area that they’re visiting. It would seem to a be a winning situation for everybody with no harm and no foul.

However, that particular fish & chip shop (with a known reputation for nastiness towards their neighbouring businesses and their BIA, but that’s beside the point) has the ability to deny business to both their neighbour and the food truck. The only effect on their business that day was potentially positive – they could have benefitted by the exposure of being in the vicinity of the event. That shop could have benefited even more if they had the foresight to advertise that Bell Arte was having a Tent Sale Event, and people should come down for some delicious fish & chips while they “cruise” the sale! …the same way we did, with the same advertising tools at their disposal. We even could have even cross-promoted each other, the way we have with other eateries in the past. Win win win. But the negativity did nothing for their own business. It only shut down our operation, it stopped Bell Artes promotion short and it raised the ire of customers and the surrounding businesses who were benefiting. Lose lose lose.

However, we were not upset. It provided the perfect example of why we are trying to get the bylaws changed. We talked to many people after we shut down who were outraged- outraged by the limitations stipulated in the current bylaw, outraged that an innovative concept like food trucks are kept from their potential, outraged that a business would “rat out” another business out of sheer jealousy and malice. These people were citizens and neighbouring business-owners. Those opposed to the amendments have conjured images of “the invasion of the food trucks,” that are going to roll into the BIAs and steal the business from struggling restaurants. Food trucks would steal valuable parking spots and customers from those established restaurants that paid high taxes and operational costs. It is a misinformed and paranoid fear, but let’s digress for the sake of keeping this concise, and because that’s another can of worms. The point here is: Who is representing those who are NOT struggling restaurants? Why does a camera shop, or a car dealership, or a comic store, or a mechanic shop, or a realtor, or an electronics shop, or EVEN ANOTHER RESTAURANT, not have the right to use a food truck to promote their business just because there is a restaurant in their vicinity? Why can’t a citizen have the choice of what they want to eat or how they get their food? Hamilton has around 600,000 people in it. Let’s give a generous benefit of the doubt that 2% of that population own a restaurant that is opposed to the food truck bylaw amendment. All decisions surrounding the amendment are representing the unfounded fears of that mere 2%. That’s 12,000 people (very, VERY generous) having the main influence over the choices of the remaining 588,000! And those people, including food trucks, also pay taxes.

People, this is not about Brick & Mortars vs Food Trucks. This is is about a potentially awesome food culture in Hamilton, and there’s room for everybody. We urge you, beg you, to write your ward’s councillor. Councillors Chad Collins, Jason Farr, Sam Merulla and Bernie Morelli support the Food Truck Bylaw Amendments. Please tell them to keep up the good fight and give them your support. The other councillors need to hear from you, to know YOUR influence as, their minds were changed by a last minute plea from an anti-food truck lobbyist group that we’ve mentioned in the past. Have your say, so YOU can have a choice.

Please click here to contact your councillor.

Thanks so much, and keep truckin’!!