Seasonal food vendors confused by Charlottetown rejection

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 Caron Prins sits at a table in front of her chip shack near Founder's Hall. If several nearby restuarant operators have their way Charlottetown city council will deny Prins a permit to operate her chip shack this summer. Council has voted not to issue her a permit to operate this summer based on several comnplaints. Guardian photo by Brian McInnis

It appears it’s out of the grill and into the fire for a couple of food vendors in downtown Charlottetown.

James Oja and Caron Prins are upset and confused that city council won’t let them operate this summer.

Oja, chef and owner of the Big Orange Lunchbox, had applied to the city to operate a food trailer at 83 University Avenue, next to the Old Triangle. It was rejected unanimously by council.

Prins, owner/operator of the Queen of Fries Chip Shack at 4 Prince Street (next to Founders’ Hall), was also told by council that she couldn’t operate although that vote was 8-2, with Couns. Mitchell Tweel and Danny Redmond voting in her favour.

Oja says the councillors simply aren’t using their heads.

“That’s a niche market in the downtown core that they’re not allowing and it’s going to be detrimental to the downtown core more than anything else,’’ Oja said.

Prins said she’s thinking of asking council for a reconsideration.

“I don’t know what’s happening. I went to the planning meeting last week and I got the thumbs up and was told everything was great. It just blindsided me,’’ Prins said, referring to council’s vote at its regular public monthly meeting Monday night.

Coun. Rob Lantz, chairman of the planning committee, says Charlottetown is adopting a similar model that’s used in other jurisdictions.

“There are designated spots and operators need to pay a fee to obtain a license. These locations are in the public right-of-way (parking spaces). The applications that were rejected (at council’s meeting) are on private property,’’ Lantz said.

The city received opposition from nearby restaurants to the applications and a letter from Restaurants Canada outlining concerns and strict conditions under which food truck licenses should be granted. Charlottetown restaurant owner Liam Dolan is the chairman of Restaurants Canada.

“Most of the concerns relate to unfair competition from these operators who can have substantially lower operating costs. There have also been concerns expressed about these applications being in the heritage area,’’ Lantz said.

Oja notes that Sizzler BBQ Catering, a mobile service, is allowed to continue operating.

According to the city, Sizzler operates under the new street vendors bylaw that was recently passed. This is the same bylaw that allows for expanded use of parking space patios. The bylaw was amended to include regulations for the operation of food trucks, carts and trailers.

Oja said a food trailer would allow him to compete with restaurants in the downtown that have patios.

“It would give us a chance to fight against people like the Triangle and Victoria Row, Hunter’s and The Factory because they all have great patios and we have nothing. We can’t even get these spots,’’ Oja said.

Prins was operating on Tuesday but isn’t certain of what happens now. She and Oja said they have permission from their respective land owners to operate.

“I’m flabbergasted, I’m just confused. I’m a small business person using local products. I work very hard. I’m the underdog. To have people say I can’t make a living this year, I don’t understand,’’ Prins said, adding that she has made changes to the business shack so that it fits into the heritage area better.

Organizations: Queen of Fries Chip Shack, Restaurants Canada

Geographic location: Charlottetown, 4 Prince Street

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