Toronto, CAN: Toronto Council to make decision on allowing food trucks to set up closer to restaurants

By David Nickle  |  Inside Toronto

Food trucks

Food trucks could move closer to the front stoops of restaurants in the downtown – 20 metres closer – if Toronto Council goes along with recommendations from the city’s Legislation and Licensing Committee.

The committee moved that and other changes to the year-old bylaw permitting food trucks on downtown streets after hearing from restaurateurs and food truck operators alike. The bylaw was put in place as a compromise with a one-year review.

Initially, rules were fairly restrictive: food trucks could operate on streets with Green P parking, so long as they were no nearer than 50 metres to the front of a restaurant. And permits were sold on an annual basis for $5,000 — despite the seasonal nature of outdoor food trucks.

At the meeting, food truck operator Zane Caplansky told the committee that the restrictions were a big reason that the city only saw 17 operators take up on the new licenses. They were simply too restrictive, he said.

“Unless we see the 50 metre rule reduced, you won’t see food trucks in the city,” he said. “Your voters are disappointed they can’t find the food trucks we can offer under the current regulations.”

Kaplansky said that the city really needed to establish the distance at 15 metres, although he said restaurants fearful of the competition from the mobile kitchens wouldn’t be affected even if they were parked right outside their doors.

Ward 7 York West Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti warned that moving the trucks any closer would result “in chaos.”

“It’s not going to work for these restaurants with these cars parked in front of them — they’ll lay people off,” he said.

Mammoliti was alone on the matter, however. Most members of the committee got behind a motion by St. Paul’s Councillor Josh Matlow to reduce the distance to 30 metres.

“I have never seen any evidence of a bricks and mortar restaurant failing as a result of a food truck in the area,” he said. “There’s no evidence there’s direct competition.”

The committee also supported staff recommendations to allow for the sale of seasonal permits at a reduced rate.

Toronto Council must ratify the decision at its meeting next month.