NPA wants food cart program re-examined

Granville street eateries complain of lost business

Food carts shouldnt create disadvantages for lunch and late night nosh spots on Granville Street, says an NPA city councillor.

But operators of a dozen casual eateries in the entertainment district have convinced George Affleck the city should review its policies and practices related to street food vendors.

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This isnt an anti-food cart motion, Affleck said. Its really about supporting all of our businesses and making sure that we have a level playing field for all businesses to succeed downtown.

Affleck has introduced a motion for the Jan. 15 city council meeting urging staff to report back on the concerns of restaurateurs and how the citys street food vending program may need to be modified. Affleck says staff should examine permit locations, their proximity to restaurants, enforcement and the environmental impact of food carts and trucks.

Shariq Karim, co-owner and operator of the Harveys on Granville between Smithe and Nelson streets, says a rogue hot dog vendor has hurt his month-old business.

Karim says this operator shifts up and down Granville nightly, ignoring city bylaws preventing street food vendors from operating within 60 metres of a business selling similar food. Karim forwarded photos that show the cart blocking the view of Harveys, which also slings hot dogs.

Karim says hes talked to the operator several times.

He realizes that he shouldnt be there because of the bylaws, Karim said. But he refuses to move until the city actually tells him to move.

Karim said an email to a city staff person in charge of street activities went unanswered. Ive talked to several other businesses on the street and they have the same concerns that were paying rent, were paying property taxes and we have established businesses there. Were following city bylaws and the same should be done for everybody else so we all have a level playing field, Karim said.

He said business improved on a recent Friday night when the hot dog vendor packed it in at 1 a.m. instead of 3 or 4 a.m.

Karim has had to cut hours, which hurts his staff.

Affleck is concerned about disposable packaging and cutlery, generators and long commutes.

James Iranzad, past president of Vancouvers street food association, president of the seasonal Cartel Taco food truck and a restaurateur, said the problem sounds like one of enforcement. He questioned Afflecks environmental concerns.

The amount of utilities and such that a street food vendor uses is considerably less than a restaurant uses. That just seems like hes trying to pad the argument, Iranzad said.

The British Columbia Restaurant and Foodservices Association has called for a moratorium on new food trucks pending a review of operating vendor practices.

Afflecks motion states the Canadian Restaurant and Food Services Association recommends that food trucks be at least 100 metres from a restaurant.

A city spokesperson said in April that the city plans to permit 30 new spots until 2015, and that the city would focus on making carts operate outside of downtown.

The Courier requested an interview with a city staff person involved in street food vending. The citys media relations said it would get a city councillor to call but no call came by press time.

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