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Weatherill threatens to intervene on food trucks

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Premier Jay Weatherill is threatening to step in and override Adelaide City Council after an “extremely disappointing” decision on food trucks last night.

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Food trucks

The council last night voted to limit the number of  food trucks allowed to operate in the city to 10 on any given day.

The 10-truck cap, passed by the council last night after being proposed by deputy Lord Mayor Houssam Abiad, will apply to food trucks before 6pm and not during “special events” such as food truck festival Fork on the Road.

Weatherill told InDaily the State Government was weighing its options on how to intervene.

“(It is) extremely disappointing that the Adelaide City Council has failed to back the Lord Mayor’s position on food trucks in the CBD,” he said.

“We will see what our options are and how we, as a Government, can support these young entrepreneurs in the city.”

Weatherill told reporters at a press conference this morning that: “We’re going to look carefully at this and see if there are any steps that the South Australian Government can take”.

“I don’t see why the council thinks they have a role in actually backing one business over another in the city,” he said.

“I don’t know why on earth they want to stop entry level businesses, often young people, people without much capital, getting a foothold and then going on and actually building a bigger business.

“This is the sort of innovation that we want to see that actually creates vibrancy in the city but also leads to bricks-and-mortar businesses.

“This is the sort of thing we should be encouraging, not discouraging.”

The new restriction on the fledgling industry is in addition to increased food truck licence fees and reduced licence numbers agreed to as a “compromise” by the council’s economic and community development committee last week.

The “compromise” also included an olive branch to the industry, allowing six food trucks to operate on city squares at any time.

Weatherill took to social media last week to praise the council for that original decision, which he described as striking “a far better balance than the restrictions that were proposed” by the council in August.

But last night’s surprise additional restriction evaporated that good will.

The decision is also seen as an embarrassment for Lord Mayor Martin Haese, who last week confessed to a conversion in support of the food trucks industry.

Abiad took to social media to respond to Weatherill this morning.

“Premier with all respect, would love the opportunity to walk the city with you where we can speak to all businesses and see how we best support them,” he wrote on Facebook.

“I support innovation, that is what I stand for, that’s why I ran for council in the first place to have our young entrepreneurs represented and supported.

“At the moment supply is outstripping demand by miles and times are tough for South Australians.

“Council’s decision last night has no impact on mobile food trucks and it gave comfort to businesses in our city too.

“We need to focus on bringing more people to our city, that should be our stratgegic focus, that is what whill help us improve our economy and liveability.”

Abiad argued at last night’s meeting that the cap would have no practical impact on mobile operators because a maximum of eight trucks are ever seen on Adelaide’s city streets anyway.

He said the only difference the restriction would make was to a flawed “perception” of the food trucks industry held by fixed city businesses.

“There is a perceived image out there with our ratepayers where they feel there are 25 or 30 trucks lurking about,” he told InDaily after the meeting last night.

“We need to make that clear that is not the case.

“Unfortunately, because it’s such a physical and also a very tangible program … I think that (concerns) some of the businesses that are not doing as well in the city.

“Mobile food trucks have an impact on businesses in the city of Adelaide – I’m not going to sit here and say they don’t; I think they do.

“But … there is a perception out there that there is a much larger impact (than there actually is).”

Food trucks “dream … not trending in the right way”

Despite Abiad’s assurances though, Fork on the Road operator Joe Noone told InDaily the decision had “disillusioned” him.

Noone said he did not yet know what impact the restriction would have on mobile vendors, but that his “dream” – for Adelaide to be the country’s food truck capital – might no-longer be realistic.

“I don’t know what it means … but I should have seen this coming, is how I feel about it,” he said.

“I might steer clear of policy discussions, from now on, about food trucks.

“I’ll stop worrying or dreaming or being ambitious about Adelaide becoming the … food truck capital of Australia.

“It’s probably not trending in the right way.”

Noone said the decision sent a poor message for the future of food trucks in Adelaide.

“Food trucks are a symbol,” he said.

“Food trucks have been a positive symbol for Adelaide.

“What does (last night’s decision) say to people thinking of getting into the industry?

“What does it say to people who are thinking of continuing?”

Last week’s decision to negotiate a joint funding deal with the State Government to upgrade and extend Frome Street bikeway was also passed by the council last night, without further debate.

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