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Updated: 20th September 2018 16:53

Food trucks remain off the menu in Okotoks

Spring is in the air and food trucks are getting ready to hit the streets, just not in Okotoks, Alta.

The town just voted to maintain a ban on the popular trucks operating there

Il Forno Vagabondo has no trouble operating in Calgary and many neighbouring towns, but Okotoks is a sticking point. (Il Forno Vagabondo)

Spring is finally in the air and food trucks are getting ready to hit the streets, just not in Okotoks, Alta.

The town south of Calgary just voted not to change its long-standing mobile vending bylaw, which keeps food trucks off the town's streets. 

The trucks can only operate in Okotoks if they are invited to be part of special events, which truck operators say is an unnecessary restriction.

"Council has decided to leave the rules that are in place at this time. We're undergoing an overall economic development strategy review for the town and council has decided to leave the rules the same," said Okotoks Mayor Bill Robertson.

Okotoks mayor Bill Robertson says council has voted to maintain the status quo, for now at least, not ruling out allowing food trucks into town in the future. (Dan McGarvey/CBC) 

"Food trucks can create a sense of place, a more festive atmosphere but one of the main issues is competition with the brick-and-mortar restaurants," said Robertson, who says it's already been a tough slog for some businesses during the extended downturn.

But food truck owners say Okotoks needs to catch up with other towns, like High River, Cochrane and Strathmore. 

"In other towns you just basically buy a licence, there's some minor restrictions as to when and where you can set up, but it's pretty straightforward," said Jim Charbonneau, who owns Okotoks' only food truck, Il Forno Vagabondo, which spends most of its time out in neighbouring towns and in Calgary serving customers wood-fired pizza.

"I don't really know why Okotoks has chosen the path they have," added Charbonneau. "We just have to wait for invites, other than that we just take our wares to other places," he said.

Jim Charbonneau says people in Okotoks are missing out on the fun of a vibrant food truck scene in the town because of an outdated bylaw. (Jim Charbonneau)

Charbonneau says High River, just down the road, is a good example of how it could work.

"There I pay for a permit, they show us areas we're allowed to setup. It works and I'd love to see something like here so you're not always chasing around other places for work," said Charbonneau.

"I think Okotoks is missing out badly and it's a shame, but if the people of Okotoks want it they just need to let council know that, that they would like to see a vibrant food truck industry here," he said.

Charbonneau says he doesn't see his business as a threat to brick-and-mortar restaurants and other towns and cities that have welcomed the trucks show the two can work hand in hand.

Robertson wouldn't speculate on the future and if and when the town might take another look at its bylaw, but refused to rule out a change.

"I wouldn't close the door for the future," said Robertson. "I won't say a year from now, but at this time we're not going to change the rules."

About the Author

Dan McGarvey

Journalist

Dan McGarvey is a mobile journalist at CBC Calgary, filing stories for web, radio, TV and social media using only an iPhone and mobile tech. You can email story ideas and tips to Dan at: dan.mcgarvey@cbc.ca

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