toronto food trucks

Rules finally loosened for Toronto food trucks

Fans 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.

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

Image: Jesse Milns/blogTO

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