Vancouver Food Trucks Clash With Businesses

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A fleet of ahi tuna burgers from Roaming Dragon food truck. (Roaming Dragon)
A fleet of ahi tuna burgers from Roaming Dragon food truck. (Roaming Dragon)

Vancouver’s burgeoning food truck scene is attracting lots of fans and TV attention, but the blurry rules for the mobile kitchens are leading to clashes with other businesses.

Restaurant owner Vikram Vij's new Railway Express food truck wasn't parked long on popular West 4th Avenue earlier this summer before being told to get lost by an angry store owner.

Jason Apple, Vij’s partner in Railway Express, remembers the team had just parked in two empty spaces along the busy street, and paid the meters when the confrontation occurred.

"The shop owner came out, and he wasn't happy. He basically said to 'take off' that those were his parking spaces, those were his parking meters,” Apple told The Huffington Post B.C. "He said he's taken other food trucks out of there before and he'll do the same."

Vij added: "The owner said that we could not legally park there.”

But according to city bylaws and regulations around mobile street vending, the truck was legally parked and the store owner had no jurisdiction over parking spots on city property. Regardless, Railway Express simply packed up and drove away. "There was no point to pissing him off," said Vij, who declined to identify the store.

With the City of Vancouver's plans to expand its 103 food carts and trucks to 133 by 2014, disagreements between operators of food truck operators and owners of more land-locked businesses who pay property taxes will continue over who can park where and for how long.

Earlier this spring, some businesses in Richmond were not pleased to see Street Meet, a Mediterranean food truck, set up shop along Bayview Street in the city’s popular Steveston Village.

It received a warm welcome from the general public, but the reaction from local business owners was a different story. Restaurateurs complained that the truck was negatively impacting several business' takeout sales, reported the Richmond Review.

Vince Morlet, owner of Tapenade Bistro, said it wasn’t fair competition for the small businesses on the waterfront who have to endure slower, rainy days in the same location where they pay taxes, while the trucks can just zip away.

The Steveston Merchants Association even published a tweet to, "Support your local merchants, not illegal food truck in Steveston."

Street Meet operators Mike Carter and Aleesandro Vianello claimed that they had legal permits. Carter told the Richmond Review that they owned a license to "legally sell food up to two hours on any street on any location in the city, provided they're legally parked. After two hours, they must move 100 metres away."

But according to Richmond spokesperson, Ted Townsend, there was a major misunderstanding. The city was under the impression that Street Meet was issued a permit with the intent to service work sites and movie sets.

Under Richmond’s mobile vending bylaws, which were amended in 2001, food trucks are not allowed to operate “within 200 meters of any premises which offer the same or similar items for sale as the mobile vendor."

In Vancouver, street vendors have the right to conduct business "within 60 metres of an existing business that has the same type of food, food concept, or theme."

But Apple, who also owns and operates Roaming Dragon, another popular Vancouver food truck, remains confident both food trucks and restaurants can exist in harmony.

Roaming Dragon parks in a regular downtown spot at the intersection of Burrard and Robson Streets. "Restaurant staff come out and they eat our stuff; our staff goes in, gets drinks,” says Apple. “It's a nice co-existence."

Flip through our gallery for some of the lower mainland's best food truck offerings

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