A longtime Wolfville restaurateur fears that allowing food trucks to roll into the town could have dire consequences to local restaurants.
A draft mobile vendor bylaw is in the works for council to consider after consultation with the business community to allow for food trucks to be used in the town.
Currently, a mobile vendor can set up on private land with the permission of the landowner in areas where sales are permitted. However, they cannot set up on town parks or public streets.
Restaurateur Joe Rafih waited two hours June 17 to speak to council on the food truck issue. He said he was surprised the town didn’t consult with local restaurants first before debating the matter.
“There should be public consultation, think of the consequences if this is premature. I think it should be rethought,” he said.
A loss of $50 profit, he said, is huge for restaurants.
“That’s a person. This is not a light decision. There are 23 restaurants here and they carry a big burden.”
Rafih, who has been in business for 37 years in Wolfville, said he had no problem with food trucks coming in during big events like Devour.
Town staff is looking at festivals and events, like Devour and Mud Creek Days, as opportunities for food trucks to set up. There were three trucks set up in the town centre lot last fall for Devour.
Remember businesses: Oldham
Coun. Carl Oldham suggested that council remember that the town has a lot of small restaurants paying taxes. He called for a level playing field, lest the pie get smaller.
“I’ve heard of food trucks coming in and businesses go under,” he said. “In Halifax, they’re having a review. I’m not against it, but there should be some
kind of fee.”
Coun. Dan Sparkman wondered if a one-year trial run might not be a wise idea, while Coun. Mercedes Brian recalled that there used to be chip truck on the corner where the Wild Lily shop is now.
She said mobile food vendors might “add liveliness to the street, perfect for Clock Park or Robie Tufts.”
Coun. Wendy Donovan said she absolutely supported the concept, “but not without a licencing fee. We cannot undermine legitimate businesses.”
Wolfville chief administrative officer Josh Pyrcz said the town has the authority to decide fees and the number of trucks. He added that a consultation process will occur and pledged to make sure there is a level playing field.
Two other Wolfville residents also spoke to the issue. Bruce Wellwood said he believes that help should be considered first for “townspeople living here, invested here. Why should those from outside our area have first dibs at feeding people?”
George Lohnes also registered surprise, saying that if food trucks become policy this summer, some
Wolfville restaurants will not be here this fall.
“You should consider numbers and fees, and for all important decisions, you should consult.”