Mobile food vendors would set up for the day in Port Stanley and then leave town at night without any investment in the community.
Not the case at all, insisted an operator of a vehicle in question. “We’re not invading the territory, we’re here to complement existing restaurants.”
Such was the scope of argument Monday night (March 27) at a public meeting held to gather input from both sides of the table on whether to allow mobile food vendors in Port Stanley. The one-hour dialogue preceded the regular meeting of Central Elgin municipal council.
Dan McNeil, councillor for Port Stanley, added a little spice to the mix declaring he saw a future for food trucks, but now is not the time.
If approved by council, mobile food vendors would have to be licensed by and set up on land owned by the corporation and be located at least 50 metres from any existing establishment.
The packed gallery at the Elgin County Administration Building was dominated by local food establishments who agreed the introduction of mobile vendors creates an unfair playing field.
It was a common theme: established businesses pay taxes on a yearly basis, they are assessed BIA fees and employ area residents.
Mobile food vendors would come in and “cherry pick during the prime season,” stressed one business owner, “and nothing is invested in the off-season.”
“We have a reputation that spreads far beyond Port Stanley,” pointed out Fred Heintz, owner of Broderick’s Ice Cream Parlour. “Many customers make a pilgrimage to visit us.
“Why are you even considering this? Don’t force an issue that doesn’t need to happen.”
Cheryl Lale advised Mackie’s has been in operation for 106 years and agreed with Heintz, “People come to Port Stanley to come to Mackie’s. You do not pass through Port Stanley, it is a destination.”
Todd, the owner of a food truck operating in London, countered with the observation he has invested about $400,000 in his operation.
“We’re high-end gourmet,” he stressed, “we’re not a chip truck.”
Another operator with three trucks selling ice cream related items in several cities pointed out two distinct crowds are at play. You have those who want to sit down and linger over a meal and those who want their food on the run.
“We serve people in the fast lane,” he stressed.
As a compromise, one London mobile food vendor suggested Port Stanley adopt one day of the week where operation of the vehicles would be permitted.
“Call it a taste of Port Stanley,” she suggested. “It would add diversity and options. Food trucks have gained a huge momentum in Ontario.”
Any incentive to initiate discussion on mobile food vendors stems from decision made by council several years ago to explore seasonal vendor permits for things like rentals of kayaks and beach-related items, explained Coun. McNeil.
“Looking at maximizing opportunities, not the almighty dollar,” he stressed.
He added food vendors would have to pass all standards established by Elgin St. Thomas Public Health and break down the operation at the end of each day.
McNeil advised “a number of businesses want to see food trucks,” but quickly added, “they are not restaurants.”
“I do see a future where food trucks are allowed in Port Stanley . . . but let’s get through our secondary plan (dealing with the harbour area) first and a future council can deal with this.”
“You have to be fair and deal with all arguments,” reminded Mayor David Marr. “This is not an easy subject do discuss. Setting up a hot dog truck next to Mackie’s would be absurd.”
One area that could be considered for the visiting trucks is Little Beach, said Marr.
He did extend an invitation to the owners of food trucks.
“If you are not sure what would work, come on down and visit Port Stanley.”
Marr wrapped up proceedings with the announcement a zoning bylaw is to be considered at a future meeting of council.