Toronto city staff are recommending further loosening the restrictions on food trucks – a move food truck owners are calling "a step in the right direction."
Toronto city council voted last year to allow for the first time roaming food trucks on city streets, but attached to that decision a long list of restrictions. A city staff report released Tuesday – to be debated by the licensing committee next week – recommends stepping back from some of those restrictions, including creating a partial-year permit, and increasing the amount of time vendors are allowed to operate.
"It's definitely a step in the right direction, and we're happy that the city staff are working with us," said Zane Caplansky, who owns both a restaurant and food truck.
Last year's council decision created a new, $5,000 per-year permit for food-truck owners who wanted to operate curbside in pay-and-display parking spaces in downtown Toronto. Partly because of the restrictions, only 17 vendors purchased the permit.
Amanda Galbraith, a spokesperson for Mayor John Tory said "the mayor wants to find more ways to help small business, cut red tape and promote a vibrant food truck industry in this city. This is a step in the right direction and we look forward to a full debate at committee."
Tuesday's report, which comes one year after the initial council decision, seeks to address some of the food-truck owners' concerns. After owners complained about long winters, Tuesday's staff report recommends also offering cheaper six-month and nine-month permits. The staff report also recommends allowing truck owners to sell food for up to five hours in one location – an increase from the current three-hour limit.
But Mr. Caplansky said he would have liked the staff report to have gone further, to address the rule that bans food trucks from any spot within 50-metres of a restaurant.
"50 metres essentially bans food trucks from downtown Toronto," Mr. Caplansky said. He said he would like that number reduced to around 15. "Between restaurants and food trucks, we can certainly all get along with some amount of reasonableness. And that reasonableness is somewhere between 0 and 50 metres."
But Carleton Grant, the city's director of policy on the food truck issue, said the 50-metre rule is already a compromise. "It's important to note that in these discussions at one point, the food trucks were at 0, and the restaurants were at 250," he said. "So 50 is fair. It is a balance."
Tony Elenis, president of the Ontario Restaurant Hotel and Motel Association, meanwhile, said the rule helps keep an "even playing field", considering the additional costs of a brick-and-mortar restaurants.