Council shows appetite for food trucks across city

Nanaimo council approved in principle a new food truck licence, but wants the city to allow more places for entrepreneurs to set up.

Nanaimo city councilors are on board with new locations for food trucks – but they want more of them.

Nanaimo’s first-ever food truck licence, discussed by city council last week, aims to open up new locations to street fare and make it easier for food vendors to get licences to serve.

It’s a good start, according to city councillors, but they have an appetite for more spots for vendors than the city had planned to offer and greater opportunities for food trucks to gather together.

Until now, food vendors haven’t been allowed to set up street side, and have required both a business licence and park-use agreement to set up in parks. A new licence process, approved in principle by city council, would open up select roadways downtown to food trucks, including Front and Wallace streets, as well as areas in Duke Point and the hospital district. Trucks and trailers would also be able to set up in new locations like Harewood Centennial Park, Merle Logan turf field and the Brechin Boat Ramp.

Staff members only recommended one truck per park in their proposal with the exception of Maffeo Sutton Park, which could allow up to four vendors pending a master planning process that’s currently underway. Street locations allow one to two trucks.

The new program would scrap the park licence-use agreement, allowing trucks to purchase one $790 licence to set up in any city park, street stall or parking lot open to vending. Food trailers will pay $665 to set up in parks and parking lots while food carts would pay $165. Vendors would also have to be 25 metres away from restaurants.

Coun. Gord Fuller said there’s “good stuff” in the proposed process, but it isn’t that flexible and he wants to see more vendors at locations like Departure Bay, Maffeo Sutton Park and Westwood Lake. He’s also interested in public consultation and a reduced distance between food trucks and restaurants, after hearing of a nearby survey that showed it’s fast-food eateries, not full-service restaurants that lose to food truck sales most often.

Coun. Jerry Hong called the proposal a very good start, but points out that food trucks work in clusters. No one wants to go to one food truck, he said, suggesting the former conference centre hotel site could be a location for a group of vendors.

Coun. Jim Kipp also doesn’t like one truck per spot.

“The whole idea of the food trucks is choice,” he said.

Councillors also suggested Diana Krall Plaza and Caledonia Park as other possible locations. Nanaimo city staff members will report back to city council Dec. 7.

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