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Food Trucks

Rules finally loosened for Toronto food trucks

Posted by Chris Bateman / April 3, 2014

toronto food trucksFans of Toronto food trucks are in for a marginally more delicious summer. Today, council officially enacted a raft of new rules designed to cut the stifling amount of red tape around operating a mobile food vehicle in the city. The debate was drawn out over two days and delayed by a seemingly endless list of last-minute suggestions but, finally, resulted in several long-awaited changes to the rules.

Yesterday, a rally that included five food trucks assembled outside City Hall in support of looser street food rules. "We're trying to show city council how much Toronto wants food trucks to be able to go where we need to go, as opposed to the way the laws are now," said Scott Fraser of Hogtown Smoke.

Before today's vote, food trucks were only allowed to operate on private property or for a maximum of 10 minutes in a city parking lot. The needlessly uptight rules, a relic from the days of food carts, meant mobile eateries like Hogtown Smoke and Caplansky's were often hard to find.

Some councillors, including Anthony Perruzza, were concerned loosening the rules too much would lead to the "wild west." Cllr. Mary-Margaret McMahon said council risked "strangling the life out of everything" by over-regulating food trucks.

Here's a quick run down of some of the changes:

ALL FOOD TRUCKS MUST STAY A MINIMUM OF 50 METRES FROM A RESTAURANT. That's 50 metres in a straight line from the door of an "open and operating" brick-and-motar restaurant. As Metro pointed out, that could black out a large portion of downtown, but the city insists there are more than 350 suitable areas across Toronto. This rule doesn't apply if the truck is on private property or in a city parking lot. Trucks must also be 30 m from a school and 25 m from a sidewalk vendor.

PAY AND DISPLAY SPOTS ARE UP FOR GRABS. Every single pay-and-display spot in the city is fair game for food truck vendors this summer, provided they pay the applicable charges, stay no longer than three hours, and comply with all traffic rules. Only two trucks per city block, however.

PERMITS ARE GOING TO BE HOT PROPERTY. A motion by Cllr. Kristyn Wong-Tam limited the number of new food truck permits to 125 available over the next 12 months. There was concern that council loosening the rules could lead to a flood of applications and new trucks, possibly from chain restaurants, but permits will be limited to one per person.

COUNCILLORS WILL HAVE A SAY IN PERMITS. The executive director of Municipal Licensing and Standards will be allowed to work with the local councillor to decide whether a controversial permit is appropriate. Local BIAs be involved in the debate if a food truck owner wants to establish a vending zone that isn't in a pay-and-display area.

ICE CREAM TRUCKS ARE FREE TO ROAM THE CITY. The changes don't just affect new food vendors. Ice cream trucks will be allowed to stay in one spot longer than 10 minutes and set up in any part of the city. The downtown moratorium on new sidewalk vendors, e.g. the hot dog and burger stands, will stay in effect.

Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.

Image: Jesse Milns/blogTO



JP / April 3, 2014 at 07:05 pm
haha. why the f*%& do they have to be 30 m from a school?
Dino / April 3, 2014 at 07:14 pm
Another passed motion was that no one individual or company can own more than 1 permit. This is to ensure that no one can monopolize the permits like the taxi cab situation in Toronto. I think there are current operators that own more than 1 permit...Hogtown smoke owns west coast poutine don't they? Are there any others out there?
David / April 3, 2014 at 07:37 pm
Great, so nearby restaurant owners can look forward to food truck customers coming in 'just to use the bathroom'. Food trucks should pay restaurant owners to set up nearby, not the City.
Chuck replying to a comment from David / April 3, 2014 at 08:04 pm
David, by that logic, every grocery store, corner store, hot dog vendor and so on should pay restaurants to be nearby. And even Mom's packing school lunches.

The only restaurants that would lose a significant amount of business to food trucks (or any other competition for that matter) are mediocre restaurants. Of which there are many.

Remember, anyone can open another burrito place two doors down from your burrito place. There are no rules against that. Why are people so paranoid that food trucks will render restaurants obsolete? It's called choice. It's what the free market is based on. Holy crap.
Chuck / April 3, 2014 at 08:05 pm
oops. how the hell did that apostrophe end up in Moms. I'm not sure, but I have egg on my face. And it's egg from a food truck no less. Sorry David.
Jeromy / April 3, 2014 at 08:05 pm
So can food truck owners like Caplansky's, Lets be Frank and others not serve food right outside their own restaurant if they wanted to??
Phil / April 3, 2014 at 08:11 pm
Do these laws pertain to the crappy ones in front of Shitty Hall? I love the ability for people like Paula Fletcher to make judgements on business. She wouldn't know business if it sat on her face.
Phil replying to a comment from David / April 3, 2014 at 08:12 pm
Newsflash: Paying city taxes doesn't buy you exclusivity for food in your neighbourhood. I know it's anti-Canadian, but welcome to the model of real business.
Phil replying to a comment from David / April 3, 2014 at 08:13 pm
Why is that a problem? If they think a license is coverable in their business plan, then so be it. The ones that can't afford it simply cannot run a business.
Andy / April 3, 2014 at 08:14 pm
So can we keep the taxi cabs 50 feet away from trolling every TTC stop for a rides as well.
Andy / April 3, 2014 at 08:16 pm
WILD WEST ha ha ha its food relax. You've got permanent food trucks parked outside city hall and also parked on Front St. by the CBC why has that always been OK.
Kevin Brown / April 3, 2014 at 08:25 pm
I hope that the voters were paying attention today. It was the so-called "progressive" councilors like Wong-Tam who imposed all the red tape. Why for example - shouldn't we let food truck park close to schools? Its safer for students that way! Also why put a limit of 125 food truck licences? We have 1000's of restaurants in Toronto. We don't place a limit on how many restaurants can operate in the city. Is this city open for business or not? Even in communist countries they do not have restrictions on food vendors.

Wong-Tam and all of the other progressives who are DENYING Toronto residents food choices MUST be voted out of office this October!

Notice that it was Mayor Ford who stood alone and asked for open competition? Just as it was Mayor Ford who argued the we should approve Porters expansion plans NOW so we can create 2000 NEW JOBS. He stood alone while the rest of council voted to study the airport expansion for another two years.
Enough already! / April 3, 2014 at 08:32 pm
Two years of seeing articles in blogs and papers about food trucks. Who cares? Honestly. Does this ruling imply that all this trivial discussion will finally be over?

Food trucks. Please.
Kevin Brown / April 3, 2014 at 08:33 pm
Isn't it interesting that Kristan Wong-Tam argued against private business being allowed to operate from public parking spaces.

Just last summer Wong-Tam arranged for parking spots on the east side of Church street to be blocked off and turned over to the local restaurants to be used as outdoor patios.

How much rent - if any - did the city get from these Church street restaurants in exchange for creating these lucrative outdoor patios? Did the city receive any revenue or was this a free-be courtesy of Wong-Tam?

Have any of these Church street restaurants donated to Wong-Tam's past campaign? Will they be contributing donations to her re-election campaign?

gaetano / April 3, 2014 at 08:49 pm
how can i get my hands on a permit and who do i contact?
What free market? / April 3, 2014 at 08:57 pm
These regulations are ridiculous and UNCONSTITUTIONAL!
I sure hope some of the Food Trucks are reading this.
Section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms says that we have equality rights in Canada. What gives a brick and mortar restaurant owner the right to more opportunities over a truck?
This needs to be issued in a constitutional question and challenged in the courts.
Andrew / April 3, 2014 at 09:07 pm
People who don't care about food trucks have not experienced the incredible food trucks with really unique food in places such as San Francisco or Portland. Toronto is way behind the times when it comes to food trucks. Most of the ones we have now are just those permanent ones - the ones outside City Hall and the ones on St. George street on UofT campus. There's nothing special about them either - just standard American food and dirty Chinese food. This is why many people dismiss food trucks as something potentially very special. Sad, very sad.
Safe hands?? / April 3, 2014 at 10:00 pm
Were baaaaack! KW where's the cash?
Safe word?? ("fist-deep!") replying to a comment from Safe hands?? / April 3, 2014 at 10:22 pm
KW doesn't know where the cash, but your Mom does. I left two tens on her night table after she passed out.

That's twice the going rate than what can be had under the Bathurst St Bridge, but sometimes you really do get what you pay for.
Kevin Klown replying to a comment from Kevin Brown / April 3, 2014 at 10:49 pm
"Isn't it interesting that Kristan Wong-Tam argued against private business being allowed to operate from public parking spaces." isn't interesting. Not even remotely. Try again, troll.

What free thinkers? replying to a comment from What free market? / April 3, 2014 at 10:57 pm
"These regulations are ridiculous and UNCONSTITUTIONAL!..."

How so?

After reading your post, I wish there was something in the constitution banning hyperbolic drivel.
Basshat replying to a comment from What free market? / April 3, 2014 at 11:01 pm
It's always hilarious when on-line posters pretend to understand the Charter and other legal documents. I had to step away from the computer after laughing so hard at the idea that these regulations were violating equality rights in section 15.
Kevin Klown replying to a comment from Kevin Brown / April 3, 2014 at 11:04 pm
"I hope that the voters were paying attention today..."

They were. And they witnessed Doug Ford giving a press conference about the OPP backing away from Project Brazen 2 instead of the only person who SHOULD have been front-and-centre, Mayor Ford.

Hell, if I was truly innocent, nothing would have kept me from the podium to shout down the walls in proclaiming my vindication over the process, the media, the OPP, the TPS, etc. But that didn't happen, because we all know Rob Ford isn't innocent here. And it's why Doug Ford carried water for him today.

For shame.

[ABF, Toronto...ABF]
Jenny / April 4, 2014 at 06:25 am
Does this mean genuine competition in food truck pricing will occur? Hope so! I like the idea of food trucks, but many of them seriously overestimate the value of their food. The idea is it's meant to be cheaper than the home-style hipster crap you get at popular mason jar cocktail foodie spots around Toronto... Not just as overpiriced. Hope to see some healthy competition now!
Zach replying to a comment from Andrew / April 4, 2014 at 07:49 am
Portland native here. I completely agree with you. People oppose to food trucks have NO IDEA what food trucks can be.
Zach / April 4, 2014 at 07:54 am
if you'd like to see what choice and a dose of "chill out the red tape/regulation" can do for food cart culture.

Delicious innovation and crappy carts go out of business. I can also assure you that Portland has brick and mortar restaurants. And if your worried about people using the wash rooms, build some public restrooms.
James replying to a comment from Chuck / April 4, 2014 at 09:02 am
"Why are people so paranoid that food trucks will render restaurants obsolete? It's called choice. It's what the free market is based on. Holy crap."

EXACTLY, ppl are going to the food truck outside your front door because your restaurant sucks and is going to die anyways.
Sara / April 4, 2014 at 09:31 am
If any of these truck drivers are reading this. Someone please come to the Hospitals at University and College. We like food trucks too.

Food Trucker / April 4, 2014 at 09:36 am
Folks who want a sit down meal will go to a restaurant, those who want good guality food but have limited time will go to a food truck. A food truck outside your restaurant will attract a different crowd, people who might not otherwise know about your restaurant therefore increasing the chances of them dining in your restaurant. Restaurateurs need to be more business savvy, build a relationship with the trucks, as the trucks have done with each other. We don't do a pulled pork sandwich on our truck but we know someone who does a great one, so we recommend them. The same can work for restaurants.
AC replying to a comment from JP / April 4, 2014 at 10:17 am
haha. why the f*%& do they have to be 30 m from a school?

I'm not defending the logic, but I think it's probably because many schools have food suppliers that would not want their share of the market affected by taco trucks or other food truck options that school kids may find more attractive than what's available in school vending machines or cafeteria.
Sarah replying to a comment from David / April 4, 2014 at 10:54 am
...Don't most restaurants already limit their bathroom use to paying customers only?
David replying to a comment from Sarah / April 4, 2014 at 03:04 pm
Yes, but it's hard for small businesses to have their staff work tables and also act as bouncers preventing people with grease-laden food truck stomachs making B-lines for their bathrooms.

Whatever, the notion that we will suddenly all have great food once food trucks roll around is the highest form of wishful thinking. The notion here from most commenters is that all restaurants SUCK and that all food made on a truck is AWESOME. Good luck with that.

P.s. I hear Portland 2005 calling for you.
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