Vendors watching Victoria discussions on food carts closely

Potential changes to city’s rules have some eyeing venue options

Winnipeg resident Kelly Powers

Winnipeg resident Kelly Powers

For now, “Pepperman” is little more than a moniker Kelly Powers uses for his email address. But one day soon, he hopes to become The Pepperman: owner of a food cart dubbed Pepperman’s Grill.

Through social media, the Winnipeg man recently caught wind of Coun. Lisa Helps’ push to loosen regulations around mobile food vendors in Victoria – a city with a longer outdoor business season than his locale. It prompted him to action.

Last week he and his wife, Theresa, flew here to scope out the scene and network with local food producers.

“All the veggies, all the fruits … chicken, free range  – I want to go as local as possible,” Powers explained to Helps at a coffee shop meeting last Wednesday morning.

He’s already got his menu meticulously planned. But a few factors stand in his way, such as the practicalities of relocating and more importantly, a city rule that stipulates portable food carts must be located on private property.

“If you’re allowed to park in more spaces, then you can be mobile,” Theresa said.

Helps hopes to change the bylaws to create more space for such entrepreneurial upstarts.

Following the lead of Vancouver, which opened the door to food carts on public property in June 2010, Helps advocates a summertime pilot project, whereby the city designates a type of outdoor food court on municipal property.

Her vision is to place it on the waterfront parking lot below Wharf Street near Bastion Square.

“It would be a really great space,” Helps said. “It doesn’t mean getting rid of all the parking spots, because people will freak out about that, but allocating 10 (parking) spots.”

The pilot would accomplish two things, she said.

First, it would support a type of small business that’s in demand by both budding entrepreneurs like Powers and customers, as evidenced by the long lineups for Red Fish Blue Fish, a vendor based on the dock below the foot of Broughton Street.

Second, the pilot would add vibrancy to a sadly undervalued city asset. While everyone agrees it’s a travesty to park cars on prime city waterfront, previous attempts to rezone the lot were mired in controversy and ultimately failed.

A food cart pilot project, on the other hand, requires no infrastructure, no capital and can be reversed if it proves unpopular, argued Helps.

But of course, food carts are not without their own controversy.

Back in the 1990s, the City of Victoria licensed food carts on Government Street, but concerns from the restaurant industry contributed to the cancellation of the program.

Today, some concerns still exist.

“It’s about trying to maintain some kind of level playing field for the business,” said Liz da Mata, owner of The Reef restaurant and director of the B.C. Restaurant and Foodservices Association.

“You’ve got to make sure that the (food cart) licensing isn’t so much easier and cheaper that you’re penalizing the brick-and-mortar standup shops.”

Location is also sensitive: you can’t have a pizza truck across the street from a pizza restaurant, she said, giving an example.

Da Mata, however, isn’t down on food carts.

“There’s positives and negatives, no doubt,” she said, adding they add vibrancy to the downtown, which helps everyone if done fairly.

The Reef has its own food cart, which operates at festivals, and da Mata has watched the cart drive traffic to her restaurant. “That is the way of the future. I see a lot of the food trucks becoming offshoots of the brick-and-mortar.”

Da Mata would like to operate her cart to serve the daily lunch crowd, but won’t pursue it until the regulations change.

Prime private locations are few, and most are taken, she said.

Next month, city council will vote on Helps’ motion. The Wharf Street parking lot, however, isn’t the only possible location for the pilot. City staff have suggested other possibilities, such as along Dallas Road.

“That’s my dream location,” said Paulina Tokarski, the former owner of a Polish deli who recently opened the Hungry Rooster food truck.

Her operation, in a parking lot on Courtney Street, often buzzes with business workers at lunch time.

“I’m lucky,” she said of securing her spot – for which she pays $175 per month.

“There isn’t anything else in town. I’ve looked everywhere.”

Why stop at food?

When shoeshiner Jill Goodson got kicked off her Fort Street location last week, Helps took her side.

Helps would like to see not just food carts, but many types of street vending allowed on city property, including services such as shoeshining or possibly even product sales. The city recently loosened its regulations to allow buskers to start selling related products, such as CDs.

Since the extensive media coverage of Goodson’s situation, several private property owners have offered her space. As of Monday, she was leaning toward an offer by Street Level Espresso, near her old spot on Fort Street.

Did you know?

There are still a few small food carts operating on Government Street, a relic from the 1990s. The businesses have been grandfathered. Food carts can also get permission to set up shop on privately-owned city easements, as long as the easement isn’t intended for pedestrian passage.

Street eats in Vancouver

 

In June 2010, Vancouver launched a food-cart pilot program, which is now being expanded to include parks. The City of Vancouver calls out to citizens to help select the businesses. Check out the municipally-operated website, dedicated to all things food cart: http://vancouverstreeteats.ca.

rholmen@vicnews.com

 

Just Posted

Co-creatorsAdrianna Hatton and Malcolm McKenzie stand next to the little free library revealed Sunday at 9710 First St. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Literary crowd helps opens little free library in Sidney

Located at 9710 First St., the book sharing box features original art and reclaimed wood

Deep Cove Elementary School principal Shelley Hardcastle (right) and vice-principal Mary Kaercher help to restock Reay Creek with fish – in this case, coho fry – after a recent bleach spill killed hundreds of fish. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
North Saanich’s Deep Cove Elementary School helps to restock Sidney’s Reay Creek

Restocking followed bleach spill that killed hundreds of fish in creek

A new report pegs the annual cost of hiring a third party to monitor use of pickleball courts in North Saanich at $12,000. (Black Press Media file photo).
North Saanich could end up hiring third party to monitor pickleball courts

Other options up for consideration include use of cameras and timed locks

The barred owl is the most likely to be spotted in the south Island. (Ann Nightingale photo)
Barred owls dominate Greater Victoria owl-scape

Western screech owl population decimated, partly due to barred owls

Between June 1 and 7, 168 net unconditional sales were made for properties in the VREB region. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria home sales slightly behind last June’s pace

Benchmark value of single-family home in Greater Victoria tops $1 million

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

The Queen Victoria statue at the B.C. legislature was splattered with what looks like red paint on Friday. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Queen Victoria statue at B.C. legislature vandalized Friday

Statue splattered with red paint by old growth forest proponents

Most Read