By Michelle Griffin | TheAge.com.au
Australia – Call it “Food Truck Friday”. At the end of the week, inner-city foodies refresh their Twitter feeds and Facebook updates to find out where the Taco Truck and the Beat Box Burger are going to park. That night, between 300 and 500 fans – bearded hipsters, local families and iPhone-wielding bloggers – line up until the food runs out, usually about 8pm.
Brunswick resident Rafael Rashid was inspired to take his custom-built gourmet food trucks on the road by the thriving phenomenon in the United States.
But while more than 1000 fancy food trucks compete for business in the vacant lots and car parks of Los Angeles – the centre of the scene – Mr Rashid has discovered the hard way that council bylaws throughout Melbourne prevent him from moving around.
This week, he received a warning to move on from the City of Yarra, after a Friday night session in Collingwood attracted noise complaints from residents.
He has never received permission to trade from the south suburban councils of Port Phillip or Stonnington. The City of Melbourne has just approved two new fixed-location food van sites from 2014 – taking the total number to 11 – but makes no provisions for mobile food trucks.
The City of Yarra doesn’t allow any mobile food vans on public land, the city’s mayor, Alison Clarke, told The Age. ”We are concerned about the disruption they may cause to local residents, and the potential impact on local food businesses. Supporting mobile food vans who move in and out of our community wouldn’t really be fair on our local traders, who pay significant rent for their shopfronts.”
Mr Rashid has ruled out ”going rogue” the way food trucks do in Los Angeles, where everyone races to sell as much as possible before the police arrive. As the bylaws vary so greatly from council to council, he doesn’t think Melbourne will ever have its own food truck scene. ”I don’t think it’s possible. You can have a truck at an event, like a festival, but not by itself.”
Luckily for Mr Rashid, who spent an estimated $100,000 fitting out each of his vans, he has received permits to roam from both Moreland and Darebin councils – as long as he can find locations at a respectable distance from both restaurants and residential homes.