Food truck operators will get a break on their licensing costs from the City of Waterloo this year, but they're still waiting to find out whether the City of Kitchener will follow suit.
On Monday, Waterloo council voted unanimously to lower the cost of an annual food truck licence from $2,215 to $329. They also approved five additional locations where trucks can park and dropped one-time licence fees from $176 to $54.
The changes have food truck operators cheering.
"People are going to look at Waterloo as industry leaders," said Reuben Salonga, who owns the Luchador Gourmet Streatery food truck. He adds food trucks aren't a threat to traditional restaurants.
"Despite that popular belief, we can indeed animate our streets, collaborate with our brick-and-mortar brothers and sisters and certainly support retail traffic," said Salonga.
Kitchener still debating rule changes
Meanwhile at Kitchener's finance committee meeting, councillors debated changes to that city's food truck rules. Though the issue was supposed to occupy just an hour of the finance committee's time, councillors debated it for two hours longer.
Coun. Berry Vrbanovic tabled a motion to lower food truck licence fees from the proposed $1,947 to about $650 annually.
David O'Leary, the owner of Bread Heads on Duke Street in Kitchener, said he supported staff's $1,947 fee but doesn't want to see it go as low as Waterloo's $329 fee. O'Leary also owns a mobile pizza oven that he operates at festivals and events.
"I can't tell you how fast I could close down the store, not renew my lease and get my food truck back on the street," he told councillors at the meeting, referring to what he would do if Kitchener were to drop its licence fee lower than $650.
"Our rent at the store is $16,800 a year. Throw in utilities, another $4,000. Off the bat that I have to clear before pay for my food costs, before I even pay myself a wage."
Kitchener city council will make a final decision on licensing fees for food trucks Monday, May 5.
Different cities, competing fees
But Kitchener Coun. Kelly Galloway-Sealock says the inconsistencies between the food truck rules and fees in Kitchener and Waterloo ultimately put the cities in competition with one another for food truck business.
"Right now we're competing against each other when really we should just be looking at a vibrant region for food trucks all around," she said.
But Waterloo Coun. Melissa Durrell doesn't agree with the assessment that differences over food truck rules are forcing the cities to spar.
"I'm not sure what direction they're going to head in. I'd be happy to chat with any of the councillors if they want to talk about uptown and how it's affected our businesses," said Durrell.