An age-old bylaw protecting Fruitvale restaurants from unfair competition is in danger of falling as village council toys with the idea of amending it to allow mobile food vendors to operate within the municipality.
Two mobile food vendors — Blair Peel and Isabella Eliason — petitioned council on Monday night during regular council meeting, to allow them to set up for the summer on a vacant lot in the village’s downtown core.
Although the two vendors, who operate independent of each other, would only operate for two to five days per week, their menu items don’t largely conflict with local establishments.
However, there was some concern on council about how slanted the playing field could be for the mobile vendors if a bylaw amendment was passed.
Fruitvale chief administrative officer Lila Cresswell listed five restaurants in the village that would be affected by the inclusion of the two vendors. All of them pay approximately $2,500 in business taxes to operate their establishments in the community.
Bringing in the food vendors would have them competing unfairly with the existing restaurants, said Mayor Patricia Cecchini, considering a traveling business licence was $57 just for Fruitvale, and a regional licence was $180 (of which the village would get 10 per cent).
“My concern is we are charging current businesses a business cost, and then we would be allowing other food vendors in at a minimal cost and they would be competition with the food vendors that we do have,” Cecchini said.
The village has not allowed such traveling vendors in the past, said Cresswell, and so they do not have a business licence category for them.
Coun. Larry Gray asked if the ventures were not permitted under the bylaw to protect the current food services the village possessed.
That was the understanding, said Cresswell, but the bylaw was written years before her time and she could not say for sure.
Both Peel and Eliason said they wanted to use the vacant lot next to Dr. Greg Barrett’s dentistry practice to set up their mobile units, but had not yet received approval.
However, Cresswell had talked to Dr. Barrett last Friday and he was anticipating putting up no parking signs on the lot. She asked if he had considered allowing the mobile food vendors on the lot and he replied, ‘No.’
“His intention was, in fact, to avoid the overnight parking for things like sales,” she said. “He’s trying to limit the use for more of a business type.”
Coun. Tabatha Webber asked if there anywhere else to park?
There is not a lot of commercial highway space, Cresswell added, with the village-owned lot next to the Memorial Hall being the other usable space.
Both Peel’s Confusion Taco truck and Eliason’s hot dog/hamburger cart would be self contained units, with their own recycling, garbage, water and power capabilities.
There would be no impact on the community, Peel told council, and noted he would be buying produce locally as well as propane for his truck from the Fruitvale Co-op.
“So I would be putting money back into the community,” he said.
Eliason had talked to other businesses in the area and they were not apprehensive about the mobile cart, since the food they would be selling would not compete with their wares.
She presented a list of seven businesses who had signed a sheet in support of her cart.
The matter will be deferred to the April 23 committee of the whole meeting for discussion, with a recommendation and decision coming at the May 2 regular council meeting.