By Jamie Smith | TBNewswatch.com
Food trucks have been a hit in major North American cities but so far the culinary trend hasn’t been driving along the streets of Thunder Bay.
Lincoln Street Eatery owner Jennifer Sauve became interested in the phenomenon while travelling through the United States. Speaking with owners in places like Minneapolis and New Orleans, she wanted to bring the idea home to Thunder Bay.
But after doing some research into the city’s by-laws, Sauve decided to park a food trailer on her Lincoln Street location instead while her new restaurant is being renovated. Sauve does serve food truck fare though.
Last Saturday’s menu featured gourmet hotdogs like the Fat Elvis, which is topped with bananas, bacon, peanut butter and chocolate. For the less adventurous there’s also the Paul Shaffer, a plain hotdog or “bald” as the menu refers to it.
“It’s exciting,” she said of a culture that sees trucks use social media to inform customers about where and what they’ll be serving before faithful foodies line up to try different takes on traditional fare. “It’s something new.”
In order to operate a food truck in Thunder Bay, a license is required. Police background checks and fire inspections, along with provincial compliance through the health unit is needed. City bylaw manager Ron Bourret said there have been some inquiries this year from prospective operators.
“It’s a good thing for the city,” he said. “We think of it as part of our downtown ambiance.”
But a bylaw adopted in 2005 would require a truck to be at least 60 metres from an established restaurant, which might make it difficult for a truck to be near a place like the downtown north core where people congregate.
“That’s why the restaurants are there too though because that’s where the people are,” Bourret said.
An operator could ask a restaurant for permission in writing to be closer an establishment though. If there is more interest in food trucks and issues do arise, of which there have been no complaints from operators or restaurants since the by-law was changed, the city could look into changing its laws.
“Since 2005 maybe it’s time we had another look at how we do business here but we’ve never received any objections from the refreshment vehicles to date,” Bourret said.
Sauve said she’s not sure how food trucks would affect another business until they’re on the ground.
“I don’t think it’s an issue until someone actually gets one,” she said.
And Bourret is hoping that happens. Traveling through places like Washington, D.C., he experienced food trucks first hand.
“There’s a really neat variety. It’s amazing the stuff that you can get,” he said.