More food trucks could operate in downtown Whitehorse this summer.
Bylaw services is proposing the city install nine four-hour parking meters in the parking lot at Main Street and Steele Street behind Scotiabank. Two of these spaces will be reserved for food vendors in the summer.
There aren’t meters in the parking lot now, and on average 15 of the spots are empty. Putting in parking meters will give downtown parkers more flexibility and generate about $13,500 a year for the city. Installing the meters will cost just under $10,000. The two vendor permits could bring in another $450 a year. And it will boost a growing business.
“It is great news … that they’re moving us from what we called the dust bowl, out on the Motorways,” said Louis Gagnon, the owner of Garlic A Go-Go. He serves Mediterranean foods, like falafel and shawarma, from his 1974 Winnebago truck.
This past summer, there were eight food vendors in Whitehorse, said Gagnon. But many vendors are considering selling their trucks, after being forced to park far away from downtown, away from the lunch crowd, he said.
“Most of us, it’s really a lunch trade. So you have a small time to do your money, as opposed to a restaurant that’s there all day.” Operating a food truck can be costly. Gagnon invested between $15,000 to $20,000 in his truck, he said.
The city doesn’t want all the vendors in one spot, he said. But clustering them gathers people and can help create a festival atmosphere, he said.
“It’s going to create some variety. It’s going to create some local flavour. And when I say flavour, I mean not just the food itself, but just colour,” said Gagnon.
It will also help tourists see there’s more to the Yukon than dog sleds and the gold rush, he said.
And food trucks can help create more local businesses. La Patrona on Fourth Avenue began as a food cart last year. The cart moved around a bit before finally settling at Shipyards Park, said Roxana Perez de Iga, who runs the business with her husband, Jorge Iga. It was a great way to meet people and they plan to run it again this summer, she said.
Being downtown will mean they are no longer “on the sidelines,” she said.
The city’s planning committee is also recommending creating a lottery system for awarding sites to vendors each year. Compadres Burritos and Patrick Singh’s hotdog stand already operate at set locations in Rotary Park and Main Street and Third Avenue. If they want to keep these sites, they will have to notify the city by the end of March each year.
Each business is a little different, and the city needs to recognize that, said Gagnon. He can easily drive his truck to different locations throughout the city if business is slow in one place. On the weekends, he sells his food from the Home Hardware parking lot. It attracts more business to the store, he said.
Originally, Gagnon wanted to be able to operate on the street. The city hasn’t let him do that. As a result, he’s lost between $65,000 and $80,000, he said.
Gagnon’s plan to operate a roving restaurant was one of the reasons these changes are being suggested, he said.
Whitehorse city council will vote on the proposed changes on Monday, March 25.
Mayor Dan Curtis was absent from this Monday’s meeting.
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