The owners of a new food truck set to operate in Montague are raising concerns about potential regulations as Three Rivers seeks feedback for a new bylaw to govern mobile vendors.
Craig Doucette and Sam Bevan-Baker own The Pizza Box, which will open at Copper Bottom Brewing this year.
“We have a contract with Copper Bottom on their private property, so it seems weird to have to go through the town as well. It seems like a very expensive process,” Mr Doucette said. “We’re obviously doing everything properly, working with the fire marshal and health inspectors to get everything ready.”
The owners are also concerned about the potential of needing permission from full-time competitors in the town. However, Three Rivers CAO Jill Walsh said no such requirements have been put in place yet, pending feedback and revisions.
A draft bylaw presented to council in March suggests if a mobile vendor is deemed to be in “direct competition” with existing businesses, input would be sought from those establishments prior to approval.
Mr Doucette and Mr Bevan-Baker also take issue with the suggestion of a May to October license, as they would like to operate year-round. Vendors wanting to do that could apply for a special permit, according to the draft bylaw.
“We’re going to be pretty warm in that truck with the wood-fired oven. We have a system so people can order and then go inside and wait, and then we buzz them so no standing in the cold,” Mr Doucette said.
Copper Bottom co-owner Ashley Condon agrees food trucks should be allowed to operate 12 months a year, if they have “invested the money to be insulated and functional year-round.”
The move to formally regulate mobile vendors comes after several food vendors have set up shop in recent years, at the Montague waterfront, on the highway in Brudenell and at the Down East Mall.
The draft bylaw prepared in March suggested a license running from May 1 to October 31, with the noise bylaw in effect and a requirement for vendors to dispose of their waste in their own containers. There is also an existing bylaw in the former Town of Georgetown which could offer guidance.
It also suggested applications could be allowed or refused by council based on “safety, aesthetics, desirability, impact on established businesses in the town, public convenience and such other considerations as it deems appropriate.”
Several councillors said at the March committee of council meeting they would need more time to examine the issue before commenting. The town will continue to take public input until the end of April, but Ms Walsh said there hasn’t been much to date.
“Do (mobile vendors) add character and add options or do they take away from the beauty of the landscape? Is there an interest in having certain areas where they’d be allowed, or any requirements about how they look? Should they be required to do everything a fixed roof business has to do?” Ms Walsh said of the types of feedback the town would like to receive.
She said the Georgetown bylaw was based on the premise that mobile vendors should be expected to contribute to the municipality’s tax burden since permanent businesses already do so.
“That’s the argument the restaurants used to make in Montague,” Ms Walsh said. “You used to hear from restaurant owners that had a huge problem with food trucks, but I haven’t heard that for a while.”
She said locally owned restaurants in Montague and known food vendors have been contacted.
Meanwhile, The Pizza Box menu will include garlic fingers, donairs, house-made sausages, sandwiches and salads, along with its namesake dish and anything else the brewery might like them to offer.
Mr Doucette, from Oyster Bed Bridge, and Mr Bevan-Baker, from Stratford, have worked as cooks for other companies but decided to go into business for themselves with The Pizza Box.
Montague was a good fit because of previous familiarity with Copper Bottom. They ran a pop-up business there one summer with a wood-fired oven on a trailer.
Ambyr Macdonald, who owns the Red’s Grill food truck operating on the Montague waterfront, said the town could do a better job of supporting newer businesses like hers.
“I would like to see the town hall support any businesses that come in, instead of trying to make it difficult on them, especially in this day and age,” she said.
Ms Macdonald said the waterfront has been a great location. This will be her third year there after spending one summer at Pooles Corner.
The menu includes fish and chips, burgers, wraps and quesadillas and Ms Macdonald said local support has been great during the pandemic. In fact, Red’s has been busier than ever.
Stella Daly, owner of the Stella’s food truck in Brudenell, declined to comment for this story.