Wednesday, May 7, 2014

No to Food Trucks on City of London Streets

 No to Food Trucks on City of London Streets

London took a disappointing step back last night when city council decided, by an 8-6 vote, not to permit food trucks on City of London streets. The unanticipated decision came after months of contentious debate, five reports, and three trips to council, two of which resulted in recommendations back for more information.

The proposal had earlier been significantly tightened by the community and protective services committee, mostly a result of the intervention of Mayor Joe Fontana.
Several of the councillors who opposed food trucks did so because they believe them a threat to the financial health of existing restaurants in the downtown core.

The amended proposal would have capped the number of trucks at eight, levied an annual license fee of $2,865, and required a 50-meter (about 150 feet) separation from any existing restaurant, double previous proposals. The amended proposal reduced the number of potential downtown sites from 222 to 50, eliminating almost all of Richmond Ave.

Under council rules, the food truck issue cannot be debated again by council until after the Oct. 27 civic election. There are 27 licences granted for trucks to serve food on private property, just metres from the street. Last night’s decision does not affect them.
According to Ethan Ling, City Policy Coordinator, “There are still opportunities for  ‘refreshment vehicles’ – as they are dubbed in London – to operate on private property, parking lots, festivals, carts on sidewalks, etc.  So notwithstanding this decision, I hope that area entrepreneurs and food lovers can still find ways create, deliver and consume innovative, exciting and boundary-pushing cuisine from trucks, carts, stands or wherever.”

Commenting on City Council’s decision, Ontario Food Trucks tweeted, “Even if it would've passed, it was too restrictive and expensive! Protectionism hurts all!

Monday, May 5, 2014

London Food Truck Pilot Debate Becomes More Contentious

London Food Truck Pilot Debate Becomes More Contentious

The London Food Truck Pilot reignited debate and Community and Protective Services Committee voted 5-0 to refer the food truck pilot proposal back to a special meeting on May 5th and a final vote on May 6th.
 The issue has been debated across the city since last spring. Among the more disappointing proposals was a recommended cap of 12 (now 8) trucks and a lottery for licenses. As of this writing Mayor Joe Fontana is calling the issue “Pandora’s box” and wants to ban food trucks on Richmond Row, Old East Village, Wortley Road and Byron. The Mayor’s new amendments to the proposal: higher fees, larger buffer zones and earlier closings.
Many councillors remained hesitant about the pilot program going forward and two councilors wanted the proposal stopped for this year.

Last year, the Mayor spoke strongly in favour of making the pilot project more accessible. London City Council agreed to get more public feedback on the proposed program to allow food trucks. The proposal worked its way between city departments for months and has been refined and revised along the way to avoid the bureaucratic red tape that plagued Toronto’s food truck initiative. The City agreed to liberalize their initial food truck plan, and is proposing a much less restrictive version that seemingly balances the interests of stakeholders. In the proposal it was suggested that a new food truck licence will cost a vendor $1,225.00. (The Mayor is now saying this needs to be doubled).

Initially, the City Policy Coordinator stated that an impartial food truck advisory review panel made up of local food industry experts was expected to provide knowledgeable opinion and recommendations regarding food truck strategy in London. In addition, the panel was anticipated to be charged with encouraging culturally diverse and original menu offerings, and endorsing the promotion of healthy eating. But the latest report that went to politicians stated that menu-vetting (read micro-managing) is too complicated to be part of London’s food-truck plan. 

Under the new proposal, City staff was expected to be able to designate locations based on such things as proximity to restaurants, schools and neighbourhoods. Initially, there was to be a 25-metre buffer zone separating food trucks from existing restaurants. (The Mayor is now saying that is not enough and wants to double it to 50-metre buffer zone.) Food trucks will also be required to keep their distance 100 metres from schools and vendors will be required to keep a log of their whereabouts. 

The  revised proposed food truck by-law amendments appeared to provide reasonable recommendations and safeguards making the pilot much more accessible to entrepreneurs. However, the Mayor seems to have done an about- face and it is still too early to try to define what the food truck streetscape will look like and what new amendments are yet to be made to this pilot proposal. At the end of the day, no council members seem to be in agreement of the food truck proposals as they stand. A final decision is expected to be made tomorrow night.