Toronto’s Fight for Food Truck Freedom

Why, as a pet owner, you should be voting for food truck freedom in Toronto

By Brian Reynolds

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One of the great advantages of living in any major city is having access to a plethora of excellent restaurants and a wide variety of cuisines from different cultures around the world. Toronto is no exception when it comes to fantastic food. But as pet owners we are at a disadvantage as we are not allowed to bring our pets with us into restaurants or onto patios. Some restaurants, such as Caplansky’s Delicatessen on College St, have a patio where you can tie your dog to the fence and still be able to enjoy some smoked meat or beef bacon (it’s really delicious) with your pooch while they are technically off the restaurant’s property. Unfortunately this is the exception rather than the rule for the majority of Toronto’s top restaurants. Luckily there’s a dog-friendly option–food trucks.

“There is a burgeoning food truck industry but we don’t have public access to it,” says Zane Caplansky, owner of Caplansky’s Delicatessen and Thunderin’ Thelma, the Caplansky’s food truck. If you’re walking your dog in the city and you get hungry, unless you packed a lunch, the odds stacked against you if you want anything other than street meat. Food trucks can operate on private property or in parking lots but can’t get onto the streets without a permit. Torontonians deserve better than being limited to hot dog vendors. Zane agrees with the sentiment, “I really would like to see better street food options, better food truck options here in the city that I live in.”

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This past spring, Toronto passed new regulations that would allow food trucks to operate on public property with a permit. Zane is not impressed with the city’s new bylaws. “The regulations they passed were so extreme that they essentially still continue to ban our food trucks,” he said. “I can’t imagine that if they wanted food trucks they would have created the system they did.”

Interestingly though, Toronto has seen a 150% rise in coffee trucks this year, going from Detour Coffee’s monopoly in previous years, to the addition of two more. Run out of a refurbished Citroen van Steel Cut Coffee serves locally roasted Pig Iron brew and offers breakfast on-the-go. Macchina operates out of can’t-miss, orange-colored, three-wheeled Italian truck and serves espresso based coffee drinks. More than just novel options for your morning coffee, like food trucks, coffee trucks are the perfect companion to pet-walking people. No more tying Buster up outside of Starbucks.

Permits for publicly operating a food truck in Toronto cost just over $5,000. The high cost of the permit has caused food truck operators to balk at the idea of purchasing one, including Zane. Currently only nine have been sold out of the 125 available permits. Without a permit trucks are limited to operating on private property and dog owners are stuck with hot dogs.

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Under the new regulations food trucks are restricted from operating within 50 meters from any open restaurant. The city also imposed a limit of two trucks per block and three hours for any on street location. “It makes it almost impossible to operate on public streets,” said Zane. “At the moment we use our food truck as a catering vehicle and we use it to cater events. That’s the extent of our operation.”

“Every other city seems to totally get food trucks and Toronto just doesn’t,” said Zane. “We have lots of food trucks, but they’re not on the streets of Toronto.” So how do we get more food trucks on the streets so we can gorge to our hearts, and dog’s, content? “The key really is that we live in a democracy and if people want to see changes then they really need to call politicians and let their voices be heard.” Zane added that “politicians are looking for voters, and if you’re not voting, you don’t matter.” With an election coming up in Toronto there is opportunity for change, “ask your local representative how they feel on the subject and vote accordingly.”

Zane is a fan of dog owners, “I’ve actually considered doing a dog special off our truck, like a liver-meatball.” Sound delicious, and once Toronto frees their food trucks my dog and I will be sure to pay Zane a visit.