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Food trucks set to be squeezed from squares


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Food trucks would be effectively excluded from all city squares, bar one, under an Adelaide City Council proposal to be voted on tonight.

A council committee last week recommended that the 25-metre zone separating mobile food vendors from bricks-and-mortar food vendors be expanded to 50 metres.

InDaily understands this means all city squares, other than Victoria Square, would become virtual no-go zones for mobile food vendors.

Council regulations prohibit more than three mobile food vendors using Victoria Square at any time.

The majority of North Terrace, and long stretches of the most popular city streets now open to food trucks, would also be cleared of mobile vendors under the proposal, because of the proximity of “bricks and mortar” food businesses.

Food trucks in Peel Street. Photo: Nat Rogers/InDaily

Food trucks in Peel Street. Photo: Nat Rogers/InDaily

The changes being considered by the council include increased fees for mobile food vendors and subsidised fees for bricks-and-mortar business operators wanting to try mobile vending.

Tonight’s vote will settle the council’s position on food trucks ahead of four weeks’ consultation, after which the final decision will be made.

Gregry Tillman, who operates the Chimichurri Grill food truck, said mobile food vendors were struggling to stay afloat, and that severely reducing the number of viable trading areas would make vendors consider other career options.

“A lot of the other food trucks have been shutting down before, and now, with these (proposed) changes, a lot are just not going to renew,” said Tillman.

“It’s very hard to make any money out of the food truck business; it’s more for love.

“It is a struggle, and when a lot of the guys aren’t making any money out there, they’re saying ‘I can’t continue to lose money … I’m going to try and find a full-time job again’.”

Tillman said he mainly traded on Hindmarsh Square, Victoria Square and the western end of North Terrace.

He said he had been trading in the city since Adelaide City Council launched the Mobile Food Vendor program during the term of former Lord Mayor Stephen Yarwood.

“We gradually figured out areas where we could trade on a regular basis,” he said.

“It’s not financially viable to trade in areas where there’s no people.

“I can’t say whether we’ll renew or not (but) it’s hard enough to make any money under the current system.”

Mobile food vendors would be able to trade within the exclusion zones only with written agreement from fixed businesses – which could be revoked at any time.

However, Tillman said it was unrealistic to expect fixed businesses to agree to have food trucks operate nearby.

Benji McInerney, operator of the TacoCat food truck, said he was working one day a week in another job to keep his business going.

“The 50-metre rule, that’s going to be tough because, in the city, there (are) not a lot of one-hour-or-more car parks that we can use, that are in a decent spot where we can get customers.”

McInerney said he was determined to continue operating his food truck for as long as possible.

“We’ve got to just weigh up our options (but) we’re determined to give it a go for as long as we can.

“We enjoy doing what we’re doing, and we’re contributing to the city something that’s exciting and vibrant.

“We’re trying to stay positive.”

However, last week area councillor Sandy Wilkinson warned food trucks were harming small bricks-and-mortar businesses, and suggested all council fees for food trucks be doubled, and the exclusion zone be expanded to 100 metres.

“What we are doing is setting up operators in direct competition with our city businesses,” said Wilkinson.

“There’s no effing equity between someone paying $2,750 a year, compared to someone paying $35,000 plus a year

“(Mobile food vendors) can afford to … undercut other businesses because they’re paying so little in licence fees.”

Chief executive of the SA Restaurant and Catering Association Sally Neville said food trucks had a large impact on city businesses.

She said the association supported a 50-metre exclusion zone to keep mobile food businesses away from similar fixed venue businesses.

She said the mobile food vendors program “affects all business, because it’s another outlet in the same precinct”.

“It’s simply increasing competition,” she said.

“Our recommendation was 50 metres from a like business.”

A council spokesperson told InDaily the exclusion zone applied to nearby fixed food vendors of all types.

Neville said the association was more concerned by the number of mobile food vendors in the CBD rather than their location.

She said Sydney had 20 mobile vendor permits, and any increase to Adelaide’s 40 permits would be “too much for the city”.

Burger Theory operator Rob Dean – whose business began as a mobile operation, but has since become an fixed city business – said food truck operators make little money in the CBD, and that the recommendation being considered by the council risked the viability of the program.

“There’s this talk of mobile food trucks getting unfair advantage – if that were true it’d make us look a bit silly for opening a fixed premises, I would have thought,” he said.

“If you walk around the streets at lunch time, you might be lucky to spot two or three trucks.

“They seem to already be phasing out, so I don’t know that it’s really affect anybody all that much, because there’s not all that many people left.

“The council would like its cake and eat it too.

“They want to be seen to have food trucks, and expanding vibrancy, and they want them to have no impact.

“You can’t have those two things.”

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