Nova Scotia

Sydney food truck owner pumping brakes on 2020 season

Steve Smith is discouraged by what he calls a convoluted and difficult permit process in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality.

Steve Smith says applying for a permit last year was convoluted and difficult

Steve Smith owns Bungalow Beans. (Matthew Moore/CBC)

A Cape Breton business owner and food truck operator is taking his business off the road this year and says red tape is partly to blame.

Steve Smith, owner of Bungalow Beans, says he faced hurdles getting the business off the ground because of a convoluted and difficult permit process in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality's bylaw department.

"I would really like for them to streamline the process," he said. "I would really like for new businesses to be welcomed in that office."

Smith and his wife Heather run Bungalow Beans out of the Cape Breton Farmers' Market — but they also use a small 1968 DeCamp vintage camper to sell products on the road or at events.

Smith said he obtained a permit last year to sell coffee from the camper, but had many difficulties dealing with the municipality.

He said the language in the bylaw isn't clear, leaving him with a multitude of questions — and he couldn't get clear answers.

"There is no form that lists one to 10 of the items you need to check off and finish," Smith said. "When you go to the CBRM bylaw office, you have to figure things out on your own."

As an example, Smith said he was told at the CBRM bylaw office that he needed an electrical inspection done on his small camper van.

Rules not clear

But when Smith called local electricians, they were mystified.

"They didn't know what exactly they were supposed to look at," Smith said.

Michael Ruus, the director of CBRM's planning and development department, said in an email that vendor licences "do not require an electrical inspection."

Between last year's challenges and the potential revenue loss due to COVID-19, Smith has decided to park Bungalow Beans — at least for this year.

"You shouldn't have to walk in with permits and a lawyer in order to understand exactly what the process is," Smith said. 

Ruus said feedback about a troublesome permit process from applicants is "always welcome" and would help improve the process.

Call for an easier process

Smith said he's not trying to fight the system, but wants to make the process easier for people who want to start a business in the CBRM. 

"People need to walk in there and say, 'I want to open a business in Cape Breton,'" he said. "They need to bring you in, pat you on the back and say, 'Welcome.'"