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Council settles on food truck compromise

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Fewer food trucks will be allowed in the CBD and those remaining will have to pay higher fees under a new licensing regime, the Adelaide City Council agreed last night.

However, the council has backed away from several tough measures it previously flagged, with Lord Mayor Martin Haese softening his rhetoric about the impact of food trucks on bricks and mortar businesses.

The council resolved to reduce the number of mobile food vendor licences from 40 to 30 at a committee meeting last night.

Fees for existing mobile food truck operators will be increased to a single fee of $2400 per year.

The current licensing system allows mobile vendors to operate over a year for as little as $600, or as much as $3200, depending on the value of the location on which they trade.

Of the 30 licences to be issued under the new scheme, five will be set aside for new entrants into the food trucks business, and those entrants will enjoy half-price licence fees for the first year.

Another five licences will be set aside for operators of bricks-and-mortar city businesses, whose licence fees will be zero during the first year of operation.

The distance that mobile food trucks have to keep between them and fixed businesses selling similar goods will be doubled to 50 metres.

However, food trucks operating on city squares will be exempt from any exclusion zone, dousing fears that wider exclusion zones would kick them out of the squares altogether.

The new rules also double the number of food trucks allowed in city squares, to six. And mobile vendors will be allowed to operate on city squares, rather than in car parks around them.

Haese, deputy lord mayor Houssam Abiad and area councillor Natasha Malani argued last night that the new rules were a good compromise.

Haese said he had previously been sceptical about a council-commissioned report which revealed food trucks make around $600,000 annually in total – that’s 0.15 per cent of total city business turnover.

But the former owner of a string of youth fashion stores told the committee he had met with food truck operators and done “the retail mathematics” to arrive at the same conclusion.

“We’re talking $600,000 (out of) $100 million – why are we even having this conversation?” he said, arguing that the new rules got the balance “right”.

“We’ve got a sector that turns over less than one shop (does),” he said.

“It’s not going to take bricks and mortar out of the picture.

“I am not going to kill entrepreneurialism; I will not.

“Listen to the customer – they obviously like (food trucks).”

However, area councillor Sandy Wilkinson argued the new fees were not nearly high enough, and “manifestly unfair”, because it did not take into account the level of rent paid by fixed city businesses.

Wilkinson said businesspeople who invested in fixed locations, including himself, were “ballsier” than mobile businesspeople.

“I’m an entrepreneur, I started a business, I employ four people,” he said.

“I don’t have to be in a caravan to be an entrepreneur.

“You can be an entrepreneur and pay rent.

“In fact, you’re a ballsier entrepreneur if you do what I do, and actually pay … rent.”

The committee’s decision last night was, for the most part, contrary to the results of a public consultation, which overwhelmingly rejected increased fees for food truck operators, wider exclusion zones from fixed businesses and fee exemptions for fixed businesses looking to branch out into the mobile arena.

Food truck operators and fixed businesses largely voted in their own interests during the consultation.

The overhaul of the mobile food vending guidelines will be reconsidered and likely confirmed at next week’s full meeting of the council.

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