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The Growing Pains of Food Trucks in Vancouver

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food truck vancouver

If you’ve paid attention to the food-related headlines that swept Vancouver in the last year, it doesn’t take long to realize that the city has some long-standing history that has shaped the community and its lifestyle. Happy hours – discounted food/liquor prices during select periods of the day – are still in the works of being permitted in Vancouver. Patios – when they’re open, what they serve, and where they can be – have been at the forefront of city discussions. In each of these cases, we refer to laws made long ago and interpret what was said, what was intended, and how we should best adjust to accommodate changes in the industry today.

Last week, important changes to Vancouver’s food truck scene came into effect. It’s really interesting because the actual existence of food trucks in Vancouver is relatively recent; in the big-picture timeline of Vancouver rules and regulations, the industry around food trucks in Vancouver is at the very beginning of its life. It’s a great time to be a foodie because we get to actively observe the discussions and progressions that ultimately become the foundation on which the industry grows. In a meeting that involved city council, the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association (DVBIA), food truck owners, and the general public, people were prompted to weigh in on the updates to the Vancouver Street Vending By-Law and Policy which included:

  • Street vendor permits must be operated by the permit-holder: no more renting out your permit to someone else.
  • More stringent permit limits: Only three food permits per holder, or four across food and non-food carts or trucks.
  • Selling a street-vendor permit is prohibited: however, it can be passed on with City approval.
  • Street vendors must also to set up 100 metres away from bricks and mortar establishments that sell the “same category” of products.

The opinions that sprung to life were, as they always seem to be in politics, divided. From what I gleaned, I found three predominant categories that summarize the thoughts of meeting members. Call me a foodie fly-on-the-wall, if you will!

1) Rules…Too many of ‘em. Let the free market ride.

Food truck owner and operators – specifically, one hot dog vendor – expressed some resentment to the new laws and how they would restrict and change their business. Others were concerned that the new laws were not specific enough and would cause even more confusion.

2) Rules…Are going to make us better. You’ll see!

The DVBIA spoke in favour of the changes, emphasizing the importance of legislation in maintaining a level of professionalism and standard in the street food industry. Food trucks in Vancouver would still be a fun thing to do in Vancouver. Listeners were reminded of the positive intent for the by-laws and the potential growth and progress that would come from them.

3) Why rules at all?

The public opinion is always my favourite, sheerly for the entertainment it can provide. The public voice consists of the greatest variety of perspectives that are so impassioned for a just-as-diverse set of reasons. On this particular topic, “a member of the neighbourhood” dismissed the need for by-laws at all, for the food trucks did not, and do not, deserve the time of day.

What would you have said if you were sitting at the table? I can’t help but notice that the points outlined carry a somewhat negative tone, but let’s not forget, everything great goes through a few growing pains. As foodies, we get the unique opportunity to continue to enjoy, support, and follow the food trucks in Vancouver as they pave the road (get it?) for the future. I look forward to seeing what’s new on the streets!

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