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Richmond paves road for food trucks

Japadog serves up buns and wieners Monday at the southwest corner of Westminster Highway and No. 3 Road. - Matthew Hoekstra
Japadog serves up buns and wieners Monday at the southwest corner of Westminster Highway and No. 3 Road.
— image credit: Matthew Hoekstra

Mom's Grilled Cheese, Yolk's Breakfast and Roaming Dragon are all popular dining spots in Vancouver—and none requires a reservation.

They're street-side food trucks, an eating option unavailable in Richmond, at least right now.

Food vendors operating on the sidewalks of a downtown Richmond intersection got the endorsement of city council Monday to continue doing business there, while civic politicians also opened the door for other food vendors—such as larger food trucks—elsewhere in the city.

"The opportunity for mobile vendors to operate in other city-owned or controlled property will be explored as part of continuing efforts to attract a diversity of businesses to Richmond," noted Aida Sayson, manager of corporate compliance, in her report to council.

City hall opened the corners of No. 3 Road and Westminster Highway to sidewalk vendors a year ago under a pilot project that welcomed such businesses on city property for the first time. Until that point, ice cream trucks were the only food vendors permitted to do business on city streets.

But without room to accommodate modern food trucks, the sidewalk pilot drew just three vendors to the intersection: a Japadog hot dog stand, a roasted chestnut cart and a flower merchant.

City hall has since fielded calls from several food truck operators wanting to set up elsewhere in Richmond. Staff are now preparing to hear their proposals in an effort to "promote mobile vending in other areas of Richmond," according to the report.

Staff told council there would be a "process" potential vendors must go through. But Coun. Chak Au nonetheless expressed reluctance, saying he'd prefer a "staged expansion" rather than opening the entire city.

Coun. Evelina Halsey-Brandt said new food trucks shouldn't impact existing businesses—such as a fish-and-chips truck setting up shop outside Pajo's at Garry Point Park.

"I'd like to see as many food trucks in as many areas as possible, but I don't want to displace or heavily impact the businesses that have a fixed address and pay property taxes and all the other stuff that goes with it."

Coun. Harold Steves reminded staff of council's direction around the pilot, which called for vendors to offer food that's "healthy and grown locally." Steves asked if either Japadog or the chestnut vendor use local ingredients, but staff didn't have an answer.

Two years ago a food truck caused a stir in Steveston. Local longtime restaurateurs watched as the truck began selling Mediterranean style street food on Bayview Street without city permission. Licensed food trucks can only operate on private property—not city streets—by agreement with the landowner.

At Richmond's two night markets, which operate on private property, food trucks have found success. Both markets boast up to three food trucks, along with dozens of other food vendors, according to the city.

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