Food trucks remain off the menu in Okotoks
The town just voted to maintain a ban on the popular trucks operating there
By Dan McGarvey, CBC News Posted: Mar 12, 2018 6:00 AM MT Last Updated: Mar 12, 2018 6:00 AM MT
Dan McGarvey is a mobile journalist at CBC Calgary, currently out on the road around southern Alberta filing stories for web, radio and TV using only an iPhone to gather and produce news stories. You can Tweet Dan @DanMcGarvey
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.
"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.
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."
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