Why are food trucks not welcome in Liberty Village?
If the Liberty Village BIA gets its way, Toronto's food trucks will never operate within the boundaries of the neighbourhood. The Gourmet Gringos truck was asked last week to vacate its spot on the Cinema Nightclub property.
The story largely revolves around a convoluted he-said she-said situation. Lynn Clay, the executive director of the Liberty Village BIA, says it was the nightclub who asked Gourmet Gringos to leave the property. But Krystian Catala, the owner of the truck, says he had a friendly relationship with the property, and they were actually under firm pressure from the BIA to ask him to move.
"They're saying food trucks take people away from local businesses, but there are studies saying they make people come out to the neighbourhood and make streets safer," Catala says.
He's right, Clay does feel that food trucks detract customers from restaurants in the area, and she says many restaurant owners have told her they feel the same way.
"It does absolutely have an impact on business. [The Liberty Village BIA] is not against food trucks, but we can't endorse them within our boundaries."
The BIA only controls operations on public property, not private property. So there's a chance the trucks could still operate in the neighbourhood, if someone offers up the space.
But Clay feels that because the BIA levy its members pay goes toward beautifying the area and making it more desirable, food trucks shouldn't be able to move in and capitalize on the work that was done without having contributed to it in the first place.
Catala, on the other hand, sees it as a non-issue. He doesn't see food trucks and restaurants as competitors, but rather as separate entities that can peacefully co-exist.
"It's not like there's this mad competition. People who want to go to a restaurant go to a restaurant; they're not going to go to a food truck."
He sees food truck set-ups as a good way to foster community and bring more people outside to get to know one another and actually chat each other up, rather than lunching alone at their desks. He says that because food trucks bring more people to an area, they're actually doing their part to contribute to the community. (They buy produce and other ingredients from local businesses whenever they can, too).
Catala, who has a five-day old baby, says he's willing to go beyond that level of contribution and work out a fee to be paid to the BIA in order to operate in the neighbourhood. He's put a major investment into his business, and he's willing to compromise in order to operate it the way he sees fit.
"These are restaurants on wheels. They're $100,000 investments. People have second mortgages on these things, it's our livelihood.
But Clay seems pretty set on her decision not to endorse food truck operations in the area. She says there are bylaws in place defining who can be a member of the BIA, and there's no classification for food trucks. She says she understands that they need to operateâafter all, they're businesses, tooâjust not on her turf.
The owner of Fat Bastard Burrito Co., Sal Zahid, is at least one person who agrees with Clay. "From a negative point of view, it does affect revenue. Every dollar counts," he says.
"But they're out there to support their families, just like we're out there to support our families."
Although Zahid would rather not have food trucks stationed near his restaurant and drawing away potential customers, his tone sounds really similar to Catala's. It's clear Catala sees food trucks as a different kind of operation drawing a different kind of customer.
I think Lynn Clay and Krystian Catala should sit down over a beer and some fish tacos and hash this out. It seems like there must be a way to please everybody and let food trucks reign free.
Where do you stand on this issue? Would you like to see food trucks in Liberty Village?
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