POLL: Council expected to greenlight new rules for food trucks, carts

By Thia James
November 7, 2013 - 6:53am Updated: November 10, 2013 - 1:48pm

A new set of rules governing food trucks and carts in Prince Albert could be approved by city council as soon as next week.

The mobile food vendor policy would bring together all of the regulations for operating food trucks or carts that are currently outlined by the departments of public works, community services and planning and economic development departments. There’s also a more than 20 year old bylaw on the books, which has been deemed to be outdated. The new policy was drafted by the city’s economic development co-ordinator, Brent Zlukosky, and the executive committee forwarded it without changes to council to receive final approval.

“Last year, when we were dealing with it, we had to take bits and pieces from different bylaws, policies that were in place. And the previous one we had … it wasn’t really customer friendly … We had to pass it to three different directors. They all had to sign off. This would really streamline the whole process,” he said.

Over the last year, more mobile food vendors have shown an interest in setting up their business in Prince Albert. Over the summer, eight vendors received business licences.

“So now, we decided that if this is a hot topic, we need to have a policy in place to move forward with that,” Zlukosky said.

Under the new policy, as with existing rules, vendors will be required to get approval from the Prince Albert Parkland Health Region, and the Prince Albert Fire Department. As well, they would be required to have a minimum of $2,000,000 liability insurance, among other requirements.

The trucks would be allowed to operate in the parking lot of the Prince Albert Historical Museum, the parking lot at the south end of Kinsmen Park, and downtown at metered parking spots. They would be allowed to set up on private property, if they provide a letter granting permission from the property owner.

“They can still pretty much go anywhere in the city,” Zlukosky said.

But hungry fans looking for a quick bite to eat on game day outside of the Art Hauser Centre will be out of luck. The mobile vendors still won’t be allowed to operate outside of the city’s sporting facilities. Zlukosky said this is because the city has contracts with other service groups operating in the facilities.

As for what kinds of foods the vendors will be allowed to sell, Zlukosky said the policy is “pretty open.” Aside from traditional items such as hot dogs and ice cream, other items, such as tacos, mini doughnuts and sandwiches are allowed.

“As long as it meets the health region guidelines, we’re pretty much open to anything,” he said. The food trucks and carts will be subject to inspections by the Prince Albert Parkland Health Region.

If approved by council, the policy would take effect on Jan. 1, 2014.

What it’s been like for mobile food vendors in the city

Leslie Fiddler opened her mobile food truck for the first time earlier this past June. She’s about to retire from her job at the end of the month, and she plans to focus on operating her business five to six days per week during the next food truck season.

Neptune’s Fish and Chips is supposed to be part of her retirement plan. She and her husband worked full time this past season and operated the truck every second Friday. More often than not, the truck was stationed at South Hill Mall.

“We had a lot of positive feedback,” she said. “This summer… customers were worried ‘where are we going to get our fish this winter?’ So, it went over pretty good.”

But now, she wants to find a spot for the truck, where she won’t need to haul it in and out every weekend – an area where she can leave it.

At the same time, she would consider parking her truck at one of the metered stalls downtown. “I think I would on maybe a Saturday. But my trailer is pretty labour intensive to haul in and set up, because it runs off generators.”

Another mobile food vendor that operated in the city described the popularity of his business among Prince Albert residents.

Stan Dignean operated a mobile hot dog cart out of the Central Park Bistro in downtown Prince Albert between 2009 and 2011. Since closing, his former patrons have told him that they want his business to return.

“Rather than waiting for the bylaws to be changed in this city, I do what’s called pop-ups now,” he said. “I completely do out of town events. I’ll go to one-day events all over the province, really and set up my cart and do things like that.
So I prefer that right now.”

He said that if things change in the city, he may come back. “I’ve been asked numerous times by the city to open my cart again.”

As an operator, he found there were a lot of rules governing where he could operate within the city. He said he wanted to be able to go around the city and freely set up his cart, while abiding by all of the bylaws.

“As long as I was abiding by that, I wanted more freedom, but there were certainly a lot of rules and regulations about where you could be.”

Dignean said vendors won’t always have the best business in certain spots – that will change from month to month, or depending on the events held in the city. He recently spoke to a couple of vendors who recently set up in Prince Albert.

“And not having that freedom to move around really did hamper the amount of business they were doing.”

Under the new policy, non-motorized mobile vendors will be allowed to be “transient” and move between different locations.

In bigger city centres, mobile food vendors are all around
the cities at night, he said.

“And the kids are actually going out there, looking for these vendors to go eat after the bars close. So that’s a good thing.”

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On Twitter: @thiajames

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