New rules for food truck operators will mean more food trucks on some city streets, but Toronto council also approved a set of restrictions that will theml away from restaurants and give local councillors and business improvement areas a near-veto on other locations.
The rules were approved late in the afternoon Thursday, April 3, following a debate that spanned two days of Toronto council's April meeting.
Under the new rules, food trucks can stop and serve customers on streets and parking lots throughout the city. But the rules having the trucks be parked at least 50 metres from a restaurant means they won't be able to operate in most of downtown Toronto.
Council also approved restrictions saying that trucks can only operate for three hours a day, and that no more than two food trucks can appear on a block.Council also voted to cap the number of $5,000 licenses at 125 – including 27 existing ice cream truck licenses.
The restrictions are much tighter than those recommended by the city's licensing committee, which thought trucks should be able to operate for five hours and pack as many on a block as would fit. The committee also turned down the idea that business improvement areas could have any say about where food trucks operated.
But downtown councillors worried those rules would harm local restaurants, and some worried that unrestricted food trucks would create a “wild west” environment.
Cesar Palacio, who chairs the city's licensing committee, said the restrictions are a good compromise.
“This is great news,” he said. “What happened today, city council expressed actually what people wanted overall. There has been almost two years of discussions in terms of bringing something that excitement for everyone. Everybody was very passionate about it but common sense prevailed.”
Beaches-East York Councillor Mary Margaret McMahon and Eglinton-Lawrence Councillor Josh Colle had been strong advocates of fewer restrictions on food trucks – as was Mayor Rob Ford.
Colle said that council had given into fear-mongering by the restaurant industry.
“The overwhelming majority of residents want this,” he said. “At one point I thought I was in 1958 with all the fear-mongering. I think they were lobbied heavily by their BIAs and restaurants. That's a pressure I don't have as much in my ward.”
Ford spoke passionately in favour of having no distance between restaurants and food trucks.
“When my family goes out to dinner, we go to restaurants,” said Ford. “We don't stop to get a hot dog.”
Ford told reporters that he thought that food trucks would in fact enhance a neighbourhood and not take business away from local restaurants.