Nanaimo streets could host food trucks

NANAIMO – Policy being developed to allow entrepreneurs to set up shop at areas across Nanaimo.

Food-truck fare could soon be dished out on city streets.

The City of Nanaimo is crafting a new policy to open select city streets to food trucks for the first time. It’s still in early days, but is expected to make parking lot locations and parks available, such as Brechin Boat Ramp and Harewood Centennial, as well as offer food-truck operators a streamlined application process and flexibility in where they set up any given day. Even an app could be created to help entrepreneurs find places to set up for the day, and for customers to know where to find them.

It’s a document that’s been more than a year in the making. While food trucks can set up at special events and in parks with a licence-use agreement, they currently aren’t allowed to serve cuisine on city streets. There is also only one food truck vendor permitted in Nanaimo’s most popular waterfront park – an issue that’s currently under review in the Maffeo Sutton Park Improvement Plan.

Tamera Rogers, city planning assistant, said the policy aims to make it easier for food truck entrepreneurs to operate in the city.

The new policy, informed by the Downtown Nanaimo Business Improvement Association, Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce and food-truck operators, will offer first-come, first-served street spots and flexibility in shifting locations. The city is considering locations at Front, Church and Wallace streets and allow for a 25-metre buffer zone from restaurants.

“It’s something that many other municipalities have been doing to honour the fact that the bricks-and-mortar [restaurants] are there and kind of deal with the possible anxiety of allowing these new businesses in,” she said.

Nanaimo can learn best practices from other community’s experiences, according to Kim Smythe, chief executive officer of the chamber, who’s been involved in policy discussions.

“We have a real great opportunity to establish policy that could influence other communities going forward,” he said.

Darren Smith, owner of Island Kabobs and Shaved Ice, also considers the new policy a “great thing.” He currently can only get a spot at the Departure Bay ferry terminal and special events. He believes the city can start by allowing more food trucks into Maffeo Sutton Park.

“This town could open up,” he said.

A food truck policy will be ready for committee review this September.

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