TORONTO, CANADA – The announcement on Thursday that the City of Toronto will allow food trucks to operate in five city parks is a disappointment to anyone who hoped the city would allow more trucks on city streets. It seems Toronto’s food truck strategy has been driven into the ditch by political and bureaucratic bungling and special interest interference.
Food trucks, serving a variety of well-prepared, high-quality cuisine, were supposed to bring jobs, vibrancy and more good food choices to the streets of Toronto, for residents and tourists alike. It hasn’t happened.
Toronto’s politicians and city bureaucrats should be embarrassed by their inaction. Hamilton, Ottawa, Calgary, Montreal and Vancouver have all moved ahead, allowing food trucks to serve a hungry public, while Toronto dithers.
For two years I’ve been fighting the good fight, trying to work within the system to nudge things along. My goal is simple: to get the City of Toronto to allow food trucks on public streets and in private parking lots. I never imagined it would be this difficult or maddening.
When I drove the Caplansky’s Deli big blue truck, nicknamed “Thundering Thelma,” into town in July of 2011 I was full of excitement and optimism. I was a man with a mission: I was going to help change the street food culture in this city, a supposedly “world class” city that has too long settled for hotdogs carts and those old-timey chip wagons as the epitome of street food vending, many of which, ironically, are parked in front of city hall, the epicentre of gastronomic inaction.
At first things were pretty good. Thundering Thelma, parked in a lot on Queen St. East, attracted good, hungry crowds. More trucks started appearing. In fact, Thelma’s visibility caused people to reconsider the notion that the city hated food trucks.
Then I got a call from a city bylaw enforcement officer who said that bylaws prevented the sale of food in parking lots, so we’d have to stop. Who complained? None of the local restaurants, but “someone at city hall,” according to my source.
The same “someone at city hall” was insisting that all food trucks be visited and charged with bylaw infractions if our workers were not licensed by the city: the “Mobile Refreshment Vehicle Bylaw” stipulates that the operator of the truck must have a licence which costs $400 and each worker must also be licensed at a cost of $300 each. Plus, everyone has to pay $45 for a criminal-background check.
Find the entire article by Zane Caplansky at TheStar.com <here>
Zane Caplansky is the proprietor of Caplansky’s Deli on College St. and the proud owner of Thundering Thelma, Toronto’s first modern food truck.