White Rock council has approved new program guidelines for the food carts on the city’s waterfront, which will come into effect after current vendor agreements expire in April.
These include minimum vendor performance standards, which would ensure vendors are present as much as possible during the summer months, and also have an adequate presence during the winter and spring ‘shoulder seasons’ – without having to operate at all times or be present during spells of bad weather.
Started in 2013, the program has been aimed at activating the waterfront and providing convenient food near the beach for families.
Council accepted the new guidelines – suggested by a report from cultural development manager Rebecca Forrest, and presented to council on Dec. 11 by recreation and culture director John Woolgar.
Concerns were voiced by Coun. Elaine Cheung, who wanted to know what penalty vendors would receive for consistently flouting city guidelines (Woolgar said penalties would run the gamut from written warnings to ultimately yanking a vendor’s licence).
Coun. David Chesney, while he praised the food cart concept and the new guidelines, questioned whether there had been, to this point, any real monitoring of food cart operations.
He also wondered what the city could do to encourage a wider variety of applicants, while noting that some past vendors have proven a very inconsistent presence on the waterfront.
“I don’t understand why you would turn up at 7 o’clock in the evening with a hot dog stand on a beautiful sunny Saturday – I have a hard time understanding that.”
Woolgar said the city would still be looking at having a maximum of five food carts in 2024.
“The challenge, of course, is that we have not had people lining out the door to want to partake in this program…so we don’t want to make (requirements) too stringent or they’re going to scare applicants away – that’s the balance that we’re trying to operate with.”
Under the guidelines, carts would be present a minimum of six days a week, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. from June through September (Saturdays and Sundays mandatory), weather permitting.
For the shoulder seasons (October to March and April to May) the guidelines stipulate the carts be present, at minimum, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sundays, weather permitting.
“Recreation and Culture staff will work closely with by-law staff to ensure that vendors are following City Guidelines and tracking their operating hours, Forrest stated.
“Staff will also be implementing a self-reporting system where the vendors report their attendance which will assist staff in evaluating performance for future selection as a food cart vendor.”
Cart operators will also be evaluated on their ability to use sustainable products; to provide affordable food; to complement food offered by local restaurants, to have prior experience operating a food cart or food truck, and willingness to be a part of such annual city A-category events as Sea Festival, Canada Day, and the Bright Walk in White Rock lighting.
Food cart vendors will also be evaluated on their past history of sticking to guidelines, the report said.
Baseline requirements for the vendors have been that they be affiliated with or owned by an existing White Rock business, with a valid licence in good standing; that they are able to obtain a White Rock business licence for the food cart and pass a fire inspection from White Rock Fire, or an approved inspection from any municipality that is participating in the Greater Vancouver Fire Chief’s Associations Multi-Jurisdictional Inspection program.
Vendors must also pass a Fraser Health Authority inspection and be able to meet all other regulatory requirements, including WorkSafe BC.
The guidelines, which were prepared after a review of the 10-year-old program by the city – together with the White Rock BIA and existing food vendors – also increase the basic licensing fee to $1,000 plus $110 for electrical fees, bringing the program in line with comparable programs across the Lower Mainland.
In February, the city will release a callout through online platforms, its website, and newsletters, to food cart vendors and local businesses who may wish to have or support a food cart.
Successful applicants will be awarded a one-year permit to operate a food cart beginning April 22.