Toronto’s licensing committee has moved to loosen restrictions on food trucks after vendors complained that a staff proposal to revamp the street-food industry amounted to “death by regulation.”
The staff proposal, aimed at making it easier for food trucks to set up across Toronto, was amended Tuesday by the licensing and standards committee to allow a greater number of trucks to operate on city streets and for longer periods of time.
The amended proposal is set to go before council next month, with the changes expected to be in place by Victoria Day weekend.
Originally, staff recommended a limit on the number of food trucks allowed per street to two, and for a maximum of three hours. But after owners complained this was too restrictive, Councillors Mary Margaret McMahon and Glenn De Baeremaeker moved to lift the restriction on number of trucks allowed, and bump up the time limit from three hours to five.
“The people of Toronto are smart enough to make their own choices. They don’t need city council telling them what they can and cannot eat,” said food-truck owner Zane Caplansky.
Tuesday’s vote also removed an exception that would have allowed local business-improvement areas and councillors to create “restricted zones” – areas from which trucks would be limited or banned altogether.
The vote left in place, however, a rule that restricts trucks from operating within 50 metres of a restaurant. This would not apply to trucks operating in private parking lots.
But Mr. Caplansky – who also owns Caplansky’s restaurant – said trucks aren’t a threat to restaurants.
“If they did, wouldn’t we know it? Wouldn’t we see it in every city across North America?”
John Nunziata, a lawyer for the Ontario Restaurant Hotel and Motel Association, said the original restrictions were required to maintain a “level playing field” for restaurants.
He accused the food-truck owners of wanting to create a “Wild West” out of the food industry, arguing that looser regulations would hurt the restaurant industry – “a pretty critical industry in the city of Toronto as far as employment is concerned, and as far as taxes.”
Mr. Nunziata argued that allowing food trucks to set up wherever they want would open the door to other types of street retail. “Someone approached me once who wants to sell clothing out of a truck. There are people who want to sell flowers from a truck,” he said.
He also warned about the possibility of large fast-food companies such as McDonald’s potentially getting into the food-truck industry one day – even though most of Toronto’s food trucks are small, owner-operated businesses.
“I think there’s a lot of parents that might not want food trucks, McDonald’s and fast-food trucks outside schools,” he said.