Street food trial balloon must have strings attached: DVBIA

Post by Mike Klassen in


Vancouver is proposing more street food carts like this one on our streets

The Vision Vancouver city council is floating a trial balloon about another "pilot" project, this time involving increasing the amount of food sold by street vendors. However, local businesses paying high rents and property taxes are raising red flags over the competition. It would appear that they have good reason for concern, according to Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association Executive Director Charles Gauthier.

Gauthier makes it clear that he's not outright opposed to the idea of expanding the number of carts in the city for food, and he welcomes the city reviewing its policy on this kind of business. However, he raises a number of concerns on behalf of his members. "Right now to license one of these carts with the City is about $1000 per year, or about three bucks per day," comments Gauthier. "That pales in comparison to the amount of rent and taxes fixed location businesses have to pay."

"We've seen city council put forward these ideas and labeling them as 'pilot' projects, but feels more like a way to bring on permanent change," says Gauthier. "I have concerns that we're creating a 'pilot' that no one will be able to end."

He cites the example of food carts in Portland, Oregon, who charge vendors $800 per month and do not allow any sidewalk placement of the carts. Vendors can only park in surface parking lots, where they must pay a fee for their spot. "It's a great way to ensure you keep your spot," says Charles. "The City owns several EasyPark lots and they could be situated there, such as at Larwill Park. With crowds attending events at GM Place this could be a good spot."

Other issues about expanding food will have to be dealt with by City staff. Acting City Engineer Peter Judd told Gauthier that he was not yet in the loop about plans to grow street food choices, leaving the impression that Vision are floating a "trial balloon" to gauge public response.

When it comes to enforcement, the City appears to be low on resources. There are only 2 full time bylaw enforcement officers for the whole city on the food cart and busker beat, and they don't work past 4:30pm, according to Gauthier. Then the fines themselves might not be high enough to deter abuse.

While it seems that Vancouver might race to the popularity of making more street food available, for the sake of the city's retail businesses council should avoid rushing into implementing it without a good plan.

- post by Mike


Food, flowers, handcrafts - it really does not matter... that vendor is a business and uses public space to earn a living. $1,000 a year is a joke when 30 feet away, a merchant is paying thousands a year in property taxes to sell a similar product.

Is DVBIA Executive Director Charles Gauthier and his members expecting 'public consultation' from this Mayor and Council Members?

Don't hold your breath.

This is a joke. I'm a business owner and pay taxes through the nose in Vancouver. Now this council is going to have these fly-by-night shops set up outside my business and pay no property taxes. All so that councillor Heather Deal can buy cheap sushi from a cart? Nuts, simply nuts. But I've come to expect this from vision and their merry band of social activists. No, I'm not expecting they will consult with anyone. That's not part of their dna.

As much as my disdain has grown for VisVan - this is exactly the type of thing that needs to be supported. Caucus, myself and many others have constantly complained about how over-regulated the C of V is; how more vibrant street culture (food, music etc...) is so critically important.

The quality of the product will dictate who is successful - the City can be held hostage by those who feel their lease is too high.

This is an important and bold first step.

Let me burst Vision's trial balloon. If they go ahead with this they will have a business tax revolt on their hands. Why should us business owners pay high taxes, while these temporary business carts are off the hook?

These guys claim they want to stimulate business but they have killed one business due to Burrard Bridge lane closure (see CKNW). They will kill even more with the Dunsmuir Bike lane. And even more with this stupid idea.

And just to add...How do you think it is done in other cities where leases are expenisve and property values high?

Attention complainers: This is another example of Vancouver NIMBYness gone mad.

Wake up! These people want to sell shawarmas, burritos and pancakes - they can't be expected to pay the same amount in their leases and taxes. They are offering a different (in many cases 'lesser' quality food option)... which adds vibrancy to the notoriously stale streets of Vancouver.

@maudern. Let me get this straight. I suspect you are NOT a business owner. You are likely living in subsidized housing or on a wait list to live at the Olympic Village? You clearly don't have to meet payroll in a small business facing extremely high taxes in Vancouver. For you, it's simply about buying cheap crepes and candy floss. That's it.

These shopping cart businesses are not unionized. Incredible that you're not horrified by this!

You don't get it. These drive-by businesses will only serve to hurt existing businesses that pay taxes to keep the lights on in this city. That's why we should be consulted before this goes ahead. Not too much to ask for is it? Will it happen, not likely under your vision administration.

@Bizowner. Where in the world would you draw these conclusions? I wonder what type of a business model you could possibly design because you do not seem sensible. Your perception is that things are unfair and therefore you must bring everyone down – your sensibilities are quite…hmmmm…socialist.

My position (consistent with almost everyone who has travel experience) is that Vancouver lacks street culture: food, music, busking etc… Many destination cities this size (and smaller) don’t seem to have difficulty having 10 times as many street food vendors as Vancouver. To simply poo-poo this, put up roadblocks, accuse me of being pro-union and not propose viable solutions is reactionary and reeks of self-centered bush-league NIMBYism.

Food, Flowers how dullsville

If Visionistas want to be really creative and not annoy the business owners..

forget the food carts..

Sidewalk BC Bud STands
that's the ticket!!!

fixes several issues in one fell swoop..

1) easy supply keeps the Visionistas and supporters happy with increaased cravings for Doritos (keeps the nearby shop owners happy)

2) preserves BC jobs, keeping them home grown..

3) promotes tourism... we will have lots of Californian, Aussies, Japanese, German visitors trying BC bud and being very happy campers in the process.. Imagine happy Germans wondering about Doritos in hand...

4) Second hand smoke would actually lighten the mood of the rather dour Downtown core...

hey dudes smoke a bowl...

5) bike lane.. what bike lane.. I'll just float home .. this eliminates traffic congestion

This is just soooo obvious

Hey, like mayor dude get right on it willya!

I need a fattie...

@maudern You state "many destination cities this size (and smaller) don’t seem to have difficulty having 10 times as many street food vendors as Vancouver."

Do you really want Vancouver to look more like Manila? New Delhi? There are thousands upon thousands of street vendors there. They sell chickens, t-shirts, sunglasses, meats etc...they sell everything under the sun. Attractive huh?

Is this really where you want Vancouver to go? I think there is room to have these vendors on our streets. But they need to pay the appropriate taxes to ensure they help contribute to the city's bottom line. They shouldn't just pay a small fee, then drive in from their Burnaby location and set up shop here. Not a smart approach in my opinion.

I have no problem with vending as long as it is not at the expense of a permanent business and as long as they pay their fair share. Something closer to Portland would be a good start.

Vancouver needs more street food options. Time to make this city more vibrant.

@Bizowner - which business exactly do you own?

There was an interesting phone interview on CBC this afternoon about Portland's experience. Sounds like it wouldn't be a bad model to follow. Health issues are looked after, and Portland's downtown is thriving.

Concerns about how much money they charge can be easily dealt with. Charge more than they are now to make sure they pay their fair share but not so much that they can't afford to run a business. They offer a different product than normal restaurants, and one that many people seem to want. Yes, some restaurants will suffer, but it would be the same if new restaurants opened in the area. Last I checked there were tons of successful restaurants in Portland.

Bizowner, your simplified slagging is tedious. "You are likely living in subsidized housing" ? Really? C'mon. This should be an interesting policy debate.

Are there enough spaces in downtown for the carts? Should they be allowed on sidewalks or should they do like in Portland and find room elsewhere?

It could work if they pay their way & I would add restrict their locations to streets where there are no potential in-house competitors.

Bill said it all. It's a good idea but a business is a business. They need to pay their way, and play fair.

BTW - I wish you all a great summer!

I've seen what they've done in Portland and although it's nice to have cheap food it is not a step forward. Do we really need more third-world scenery to match our third-world city government? The pizza slice joints, 7-Eleven and many others already create way too much garbage and there are very few trashcans in the downtown.

I hope this can be done, wisely of course and in a fair way for both the new vendors and brick 'n mortar places. They could probably make a killing near the bus stops on Howe St, or Granville when the busses go back to using it.

20+ years ago, I happened to found the first ever hotdog vending business in another Canadian city. I learnt the city was changing their bylaws allowing carts and jumped at the chance.

As someone who was both revered and loved, being the only business of it's kind on the streets of this city for the first year, I can appreciated what city council is attempting to do, and the business side that is concerned about unfair competition.

I'm very torn on this issue because on the one hand, I know first hand that it can work.

The very big BUT in this equation, is how the city of Vancouver handles the implementation, health concerns, and license/taxing issues.

So far, Vision has not demonstrated anything other than pure arrogance and a lack of interest in hearing from people with opposing view points. They have also not made any effort to show pragmatism when it comes to refining their ideologically driven initiatives.

This specific issue will be a disaster if they don't park their "I know better than you" attitudes [pick anyone from the mayor on down], to get the mix right from the community.

That doesn't come from calling up the city manager in Portland and asking if they're happy with their program. It comes from engaging stakeholders here in Vancouver and designing a program that enhances, not diminishes the experience.

So far I've not read any information that the CoV is talking to the right people on their program here.

Alex....bus stops and bus malls are not good sites for carts for many reasons. You're business instincts aren't showing on this one at all.

Why don't they open up the Granville Street Mall area, between Georgia and Robson Sts. to a night market as they have in over in Chinatown on Friday nights.

Invite the Chinese community to run stands from 6-11 pm on Friday and Saturday nights.

That area has some stores and eateries but is not heavy in it.

This would give provide a 'street atmosphere' to that area with out causing damage to the eateries further up Granville and the surrounding areas.

Check out!

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