Niverville welcomes food trucks, with limits
On May 16, Niverville’s council approved the first reading of a new bylaw which places regulations on selling from mobile food trucks in the community. This is in response to requests they’ve received in recent years from come-and-go vendors looking for busy local spots to sell their wares.
The goal in creating this policy, council says, is to ensure that the brick-and-mortar businesses who pay local taxes and support community endeavours aren’t negatively impacted.
“The city of Steinbach [requires mobile food vendors to park] a certain distance from eateries,” Mayor Myron Dyck said at the public meeting. “We kind of did something similar to that, which basically eliminates Main Street as far as where food trucks can go.”
According to the new bylaw, from May 1 to October 1, mobile food truck operators are allowed to set up shop in town—but, as before, only once a license has been issued by the town.
The bylaw makes an exception for operators selling Manitoba-grown produce as long as the seller is also the direct grower. These vendors require no license to sell their wares.
Where major events or festivals are involved, such as the Olde Tyme Country Fair, those food vendors requiring a town-issued license are not allowed to operate in town during the event without also procuring a second license to do so by the event organizer.
Private events held on private property may be allowed to host a food truck on site under the condition that the property owner has submitted written request for the town’s permission in advance.
Even here, some limitations apply.
Council has established four locations on public property where sales will be allowed.
The main commercial corridor, which includes Main Street as well as stretches of Highway 311 on the east and west side of town, are completely off-limits to food vendors.
Allowances here will only be made for food vendors authorized by the organizing committee of the Olde Tyme Country fair—and only on fair weekend.
All other streets in the commercial areas are open season, but only where a setback of 200 meters can be achieved from an existing business that deals in the consumable goods market. This applies to all restaurants but not to grocery and convenience stores.
In this scenario, a food truck would not be allowed on Drovers Run but would be allowed on Cedar Drive until such a time when a stationary restaurant opens for business along that stretch.
Council has narrowed down a couple of specific locations where food trucks would be welcome. One of these is a section of the Centennial Arena overflow parking lot, large enough to accommodate eight food trucks. These trucks would be visible from Main Street and accessed via Arena Road.
In order to enhance eating opportunities for event organizers and patrons using Hespeler Park, council has also deemed specific areas of the north and south parking lots as appropriate for food truck set up. A total of 19 food trucks could be hosted here.
To try and level the playing field, licensing fees will apply to all food truck operators, which vary based on resident or non-resident status. Weekly, monthly, or seasonal rates are also available depending on the length of time a vendor wishes to reserve a spot.
The food truck bylaw will not be fully in effect until and if council passes the second and third readings in June. There will be no public hearing on the topic.
Until that meeting, council welcomes feedback from residents and business owners.
What Local Restauranteurs Say
Nick Hagidiakow is the Niverville franchisee of Dairy Queen and the soon-to-open Pita Pit. He stands firmly opposed to council’s decision to make provisions for food trucks of any kind.
He makes an exception, though, for large events like the fair that draw in thousands of people at a time.
“[The new bylaw] directly takes money from and is a slap in the face to every restauranteur in Niverville that contributes to [the local economy],” says Hagadiakow. “That food truck is going to pack up shop at the end of the day, after he’s made a couple of thousand dollars that could have otherwise gone to a local business, taking 100 percent of the profits [to spend elsewhere].”
But he fears that local businesses won’t just be impacted by the sales from one truck. He’s seen what happens in other communities when the door is opened and a steady flow of food trucks fill all the prime locations at all the prime times.
For Hagiadakow and other restauranteurs along Drovers Run, the Arena Road location is too close in proximity to one of their biggest customer bases: the high school students. And when school lets out for the season and families head out of town on vacation, businesses like his experience a slump in sales.
Providing an opportunity for food trucks to extract a portion of those already lean profits, he adds, is simply unthinkable.
In the end, it’s not about competition, he adds. It’s just about what’s fair. If food trucks were required to pay equitable taxes and jump through legal hoops, then they’ve earned the right to be there.
“For me to open my Pita Pit and my Dairy Queen, I had to go sit in front of a [council] panel at a public hearing,” he says. “But a food truck gets to come in and serve burgers and ice cream, taking money out of my pocket, and they don’t have to go through a public hearing.”
When it comes to his local patrons, he hopes they will consider what the brick-and-mortar restaurants are doing for the community which food truck vendors are not.
“I support everything that I can in town, which is almost everything I’m approached about,” says Hagidiakow. “I pay property tax and I employ the [local] youth and adults here.”
At the end of the day, he says, the town is just not big enough to support food trucks yet.
Paul Ghuman, owner of Pizza 311, is also disappointed with council’s new bylaw. Like Hagidiakow, he’s proud to invest in community fundraisers, special events, and local sporting teams, but he counts on the community’s full support in order to make that all possible.
He worries that with food trucks taking a bite out of his business, he may be forced to close his doors on slow days.
“They are not offering anything different that we don’t already have in town,” Ghuman reasons.
As for making allowances for food trucks at Hespeler Park, he says even that takes opportunity away that local entrepreneurs might have had.
“They should give the first opportunity to businesses already in town if they want to set something up at a sporting event,” says Ghuman. “If the local businesses are willing to support those events, they should get priority.”
The franchisee of Smitty’s Restaurant, Brian Funk, is less concerned about the direct impact on his business since he caters to a clientele looking for a sit-down dining experience.
Even so, he feels food trucks are given an unfair advantage when it comes to bylaws affecting restaurants. Food vendors don’t need to provide washrooms for their patrons, provide a certain number of parking stalls, or meet umpteen other stipulations that regular restaurants are subject to.
“They are not flying under the same rules by any stretch of the imagination,” says Funk. “They drive into town and they put up their shingle. They don’t have the same costs or challenges that we do.”
Brenda Sawatzky, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Niverville Citizen