Calgary

Late night food trucks stir up fight in northeast Calgary

The owners of two popular food trucks operating next to a northeast Calgary park say they are being harassed by local residents who don’t want them there, including their Calgary-Falconridge MLA, Devinder Toor.

Truck owners allege bullying from local residents and UCP MLA Devinder Toor

Talat Ejaz, left, and Danial Punni are the owners of the Lahori BBQ Hut and Indian Bistro food trucks that have been operating in Taradale for several years. The pair say they are being harassed by residents who don’t want them there anymore. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

The owners of two popular food trucks operating next to a northeast Calgary park for the past three years say they are being bullied and harassed by residents who don't want them there, including Calgary-Falconridge MLA, Devinder Toor.

The Lahori BBQ Hut and Indian Bistro trucks park on 80th Avenue N.E. and Taradale Drive N.E. most nights. They serve Pakistani and Indian street eats to people using the busy green space and lake, which are surrounded by apartments and family homes backing onto the park.

The mobile eateries are inspected, licensed and allowed to operate at the location from 6 p.m. until 11 p.m.

But some residents who live there say the trucks attract gangs of youths in cars, increase traffic in the area as well as litter and noise pollution from generators on the trucks, which are both enclosed generators.

The truck owners say their small food businesses have nothing to do with existing traffic problems and noisy vehicles cruising the neighbourhood at night. They say the complaints are more about northeast politics than genuine public safety concerns.

In one incident on May 30, the truck owners allege they were visited by UCP MLA Devinder Toor along with a group of men, whom they describe as a mob. They say the group spoke to them aggressively and demanded they move away from the area for good. The owners both say it was a confrontation that felt more like a threat than a conversation.

Food truck dispute serves up controversy in northeast Calgary

2 years ago
Duration 2:05
Food truck owners who've been set up on 80th Avenue in the northeast for several years say they're now being bullied and pressured to move by locals, and even their MLA.

"I am here with a licence, everything is good but recently some people they have a problem," said Talat Ejaz, owner of the Lahori BBQ Hut. 

"Bylaw checked our papers, health people checked our papers and the city licensing people checked our papers — everything is good," Ejaz said.

"Devinder Toor showed up with a group, about 15 of them, and demanded my wife move the truck. Then they went to the next truck. I told them I have a right to be here, but Toor told us he is an MLA and he can make new rules so we can't park here anymore," said Ejaz.

Ejaz says Toor told them his party is in power in Alberta and he can change the law. He says the group then moved on to the owner of the second truck, Indian Bistro, and repeated the threat.

"It was a surprise and threatening," said Danial Punni.

"Mr. Toor said they will put a no parking sign here, which is shocking for me from our respected MLA," he said.

The two food trucks parked on 80th Avenue N.E. in front of an apartment building. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

"We are just following the bylaws. It's just a small business during the summer time," he said.

Punni's wife, Amandeep Kaur, says an MLA shouldn't be approaching and threatening local business owners.

"They don't have any legal notice," she said. "They need to go by the law. If they have an issue, they shouldn't come to somebody's business and threaten. They have no right to threaten," Kaur said. "We live in Canada."

Kaur said people who don't want the trucks operating there are parking their cars on 80th Avenue to try to block them from setting up, as well as filming them on phones.

The truck owners say the list of issues being raised by those opposed to the trucks have nothing to do with them.

Calgary-Falconridge MLA Devinder Toor says he didn't threaten anyone and was responding to unhappy residents. 'Together, they're the ones that can find a solution. It's not up to me,' Toor says. (CBC )

In an interview, Devinder Toor gave a different account of approaching the truck owners and denies threatening to have them removed or using his position to change parking regulations.

"Yes, I approached them and there were some community members that weren't happy," said Toor.

"I think if they can help, that's what I requested. They should get along with the community members. Together, they're the ones that can find a solution. It's not up to me," said Toor.

"It's a municipal matter," he said. 

Charandip Matharu has lived in the area for the past 10 years. He says residents aren’t against the business but say the trucks bring with them a long list of issues. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

Meanwhile, a petition to have the trucks removed from 80th Avenue has been circulating. Another petition supporting the trucks is also collecting signatures.

"We're not against their business, but this is not the right spot," said Charandip Matharu, who has lived in Taradale for 10 years.

"It's already congested, cars racing by and people crossing the road. The trucks are attracting people who have no business in this neighbourhood. We can't sleep till midnight or 2 a.m.," said Matharu.

"This is a lovely community," said resident Jacob Anthony. "There's a lot of traffic and this isn't the right spot. They are here till almost midnight. People are coming here and they have no respect with the noises."

"The food trucks is like having two restaurants parked outside of my bedtime window," said Ranjit Singh, who lives just over 80th Avenue in an apartment building in Saddle Ridge.

"Twenty to 30 people park here, eat and drink. There have been fights," said Singh. "They're loud, they laugh."

Singh says visiting cars also block parking spots for people living in an apartment complex.

"The wrong crowd comes here disturbing the residents," said Paul Matharoo, with the Taradale Community Association.

"Anybody who passes by, the people who gather here are teasing them, kids are scared to come here," he said. "They are not following the rules."

Ward 5 Coun. George Chahal has been speaking to both sides and says the community needs to reach some common ground to move forward. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

But the truck owners insist they are following the rules and aren't responsible for traffic, speeding cars and the behaviour of members of the public and customers who choose to visit the park in the evening. 

Ward 5 Coun. George Chahal has visited the truck owners and spoken with residents to try to find some middle ground.

"There's been a lot more traffic in the area and concerns with the time the food trucks have spent there. They are allowed to spend five hours there and we've had bylaw out regularly to check that to make sure they are complying," said Chahal.

The councillor says the location sits just down the road from a busy commercial area, congested roads lined with houses and apartments and lots of traffic.

"It's very vibrant here," said Chahal. "But there are a lot of factors that have caused concern for the community, and rightly so. Many are public safety related and our transportation and planning departments need to come out and see what we can do better, what can we bring forward to alleviate these concerns," he said.

Chahal says Calgary Police Service officers visit the area regularly to make sure people aren't speeding or driving dangerously.

He says a solution is about finding the right balance between allowing the businesses to operate while hearing the residents' concerns.

The truck owners say they are open to a conversation about how to be good neighbours but don't plan on moving to a new location any time soon.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dan McGarvey

Journalist

Dan McGarvey is a mobile journalist focused on filing stories remotely for CBC Calgary’s web, radio, TV and social media platforms, using only an iPhone and mobile tech. His work is used by mobile journalism (mojo) trainers and educators around the world. Dan is focused on the city’s diverse northeast quadrant and sharing stories from under-reported communities. You can email story ideas and tips to Dan at Dan.Mcgarvey@cbc.ca.

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