Finding a food truck balance

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Dips Ice Cream tested the Petrolia market in 2020. It had a spot at the Victoria Hall parking lot. Council has approved the use of another food truck at Bridgeview Park

Heather Wright/The Independent

A Petrolia councillor wants to make sure food trucks are paying their fair share when they set up in town.
And Wade Deighton thinks the town could allow up to four mobile businesses a chance to ply their trades in town.
Earlier this month, the owner of Sitari – an Indian restaurant from Sarnia – asked to set up a food truck in the town. His request was turned down with the majority of councillors concerned allowing a food truck, with lower costs and no taxes, would hurt local restaurants in a time when times are tough.
Many restaurants are struggling to make ends meet as they face restrictions to reduce the spread of COVID-19 which cut the number of tables available to use dramatically. And fewer customers are coming in for food, worried restaurants could be a place of transmission.
And while COVID-19 is the most current threat, food trucks have always been an irritant.
Restaurant owners often own their building and pay thousands of dollars in taxes to the municipality and resent food trucks lower fees.
Deighton says up until this year, the sole food truck operator in town paid a business licence of about $250 and had its hydro and water services paid.
“They were paying $256 for a business license and going to work. And it’s not fair for the businesses that have spent the money to build buildings to pay taxes to buy places.
Deighton says the community services committee will look at allowing four food trucks with higher fees more in line with the taxes restaurants pay.
He believes some of the trucks could be located downtown and near schools.
“I’m trying to make it fair for all of the businesses from a tax standpoint, that’s the only thing we have at our disposal.”
Town staff is also looking at the bylaw which governs food trucks. Clerk Mandi Pearson says it is being reviewed and will be brought back to council for approval in the near future.